Clemence Manyukwe News Editor—
AS Zanu-PF’s secretary for legal affairs, Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa was number 12 in the party’s hierarchy, but yesterday, he jumped 11 places to land the post of Vice President. His liberation war credentials, dependability and long service in government would have no doubt played in President Robert Mugabe’s mind as he appointed him.
The outgoing Justice Minister, a lawyer, is well-acquainted with security issues having served as both Defence Minister and State Security Minister.
Born Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa on September, 15, 1946, he was nicknamed “Ngwena” (The Crocodile) after the “Crocodile Gang”, a special sabotage unit during the country’s war of independence. In 1965, Cde Mnangagwa with another comrade, Matthews Malowa, bombed a goods train near Masvingo.
Cde Mnangagwa was among the first group of people to be trained in the early 1960s for the armed insurgency against Zimbabwe’s racist minority rulers which culminated in the country’s independence in 1980.
He received training in Tanzania, Egypt and China. In China, Cde Mnangagwa attended a school of ideology and had a stint at another for military engineering.
His long-time friend Cde July Moyo said yesterday: “He led units that were responsible for carrying out sabotage on the enemy’s economic infrastructure. He blew up a train in Masvingo, unfortunately he was arrested.
Following his arrest in January 1965, he was forced to confess to blowing up the locomotive. He was only spared the hangman’s noose after his lawyer successfully argued that he was under age.
The ordeal had a lasting impact on him and up to this day, he opposes capital punishment and wants it abolished. His life spared, Cde Mnangagwa spent 10 years in jail and was once detained with nationalists such as President Mugabe, Cdes Enos Nkala, Maurice Nyagumbo and Edgar Tekere.
When he was released, he was deported to Zambia where his parents were based after relocating there in 1955, fleeing oppression by the country’s white rulers.
Cde Mnangagwa is married to Auxillia, his third wife, and they have three children together – Emmerson Junior, Collin and Sean. He has other children from his first two marriages, including daughters Chido Emma, Farai Celine and Justine Mhurai.
“Cde Mnangagwa is a family man. He comes from a very large family. He always tells us that his grandfather had 32 boys, including his father. He never counted the girls,” said Cde Moyo.
“He takes care of his family. Apart from President Mugabe, I don’t know anyone who has sent so many family members to universities. Through his assistance, so many have been educated.”
Cde Moyo said after Cde Mnangagwa was released from prison, he was encouraged by President Mugabe to study. He later studied law at the University of London.
“For someone who had been given a life sentence, studying shows that he was optimistic that one day, the country would be free,” added Cde Moyo.
After independence in 1980, Cde Mnangagwa served in various portfolios in both the party and government. He was Minister of State Security; Defence; Housing and currently holds the justice portfolio.
From 2000 to 2005, he was the country’s Speaker of Parliament.
In 2004, while serving as Zanu-PF’s secretary for administration, he was set to become the party’s Vice President, but was asked at the eleventh hour to step aside for a female candidate: outgoing VP Joice Mujuru. During that year’s party Congress, he emerged as secretary for justice, which was considered as a demotion.
In that political setback, he proved that he was loyal to the party and would not let his emotions get over him.
“He took his medicine in silence and waited for his chance,” said one of his political allies.
Added Cde Moyo: “He took the setback magnanimously, that’s why he was able to embrace VP Mujuru when she was elected and he continued to work for the party. He understood that the President can take decisions in the interest of the party.”
In the intervening years,ex-VP Mujuru and her backers made numerous political blunders that saw President Mugabe dumping her in favour of Cde Mnangagwa.
But what is Cde Mnangagwa’s vision for Zimbabwe? Former Zanu-PF Zvishavane Ngezi MP Cde Larry Mavhima says Vice President Mnangagwa would like to see accelerated economic empowerment of Zimbabweans, not just a select few.
In a 2011 interview, Cde Mnangagwa described himself as “just a humble person”, adding: “I just wish a legacy of peace, prosperity and growth for the younger generation.”
Cde Mavhima added yesterday: “He wants to see indigenisation spreading to as many people as possible; not just a select few or the elite. We’ve had discussions with him on that.
“I attribute his elevation to loyalty to the party and President as well as dedication to the revolution and hard work. He’s been given many assignments by the President and he has carried them dutifully without complaining or doing it halfway. There’re some days we’ve seen him working 20 hours a day, practically.”
But what could have made President Mugabe settle for Cde Mnangagwa?
Political analyst Ricky Mukonza said firstly, Cde Mnangagwa is someone President Mugabe can trust due to their relationship that dates back to the pre-independence days.
“Secondly, he appears to be patient as can be seen with how he was able wait after the 2004 setback. He was given a less influential post but accepted and waited for his turn. He’s also seen as a good strategist having spearheaded Zanu-PF’s 2013 election victory,” said Mukonza.