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'Crocodile' wins by a whisker

Crocodile wins by a whisker

Known for his political longevity and survival skills, Emmerson Mnangagwa, nicknamed "Crocodile", has finally been declared President. But, by the proverbial whisker. His "revolutionary" credentials, coupled with his support among key parts of Zimbabwe's elite, specifically within the military and security services, singled him out as a likely successor to Robert Mugabe. For 40 years, Mnangagwa stood next to Mugabe, the man who ruled Zimbabwe from its inception in 1980 until last year. Mnangagwa had fought alongside Mugabe in the 1977 liberation war and then later was security minister and justice minister, but the job he had always wanted seemed to elude him. He got that chance after the November coup, and a victory in last week's election has cemented his position as the nation's leader. The trouble for Mnangagwa is that many still consider him to represent a continuation of Mugabe, whose ghost lingers over the ruling Zanu-PF party. Fear of Mnangagwa stems from his position as Mugabe's enforcer and head of the Central Intelligence Organisation or secret police and his alleged role in the 1983-84 massacres of the Ndebele ethnic group in Matabeleland, a region in Zimbabwe's southwest that was a centre of opposition to Mugabe's regime. The International Association of Genocide Scholars, an international nonpartisan organization, estimated that the secret police and armed forces killed at least 20,000 civilians. Kate Hoey, a Labour Party member of the UK Parliament who has campaigned for years to highlight oppression under Mugabe's regime, described Mnangagwa in a parliamentary debate in November as "probably the one person in Zimbabwe who inspires even greater terror than Mugabe." As President, Mnangagwa has pledged to heal divisions and rebuild the country. His Zanu-PF party won a two-thirds majority in parliament, but the presidential vote was far closer. Mnangagwa won 50.8 per cent of the vote, the election commission said, just enough to avoid a runoff. The election victory was also marred by violent clashes in Harare between police and protesters supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Six people were killed, prompting statements of concern from the United States, the United Nations and the UK. Mnangagwa is all too aware of the international concern surrounding the election. Zimbabwe is eager to ensure that elections are considered free and fair to lure back foreign investment and resuscitate its economy. As matters stand, Mnangagwa should steer clear of Mugabe's path if he wants to bring the country back together. He will have to work very hard to change his character so that he can define the future of the country and define his future as a democrat, as a reformer. For now, only Mnangagwa knows the path he will take and Zimbabweans will be watching carefully.

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