Zimbabwe’s long-time president Robert Mugabe resigned on Tuesday with the army seeking a “bloodless transition” to a new government.
He was replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa, the deputy he sacked this month, and he is set to swear in on Friday.
The generals behind the military coup appeared to be trying to stop Mugabe’s hated wife Grace from succeeding the 93-year-old dictator when he dies.
Grace’s path to power was cleared after Mugabe fired Mnangagwa, who was his presumed successor and the country’s Vice President two weeks ago.
Mnangagwa has been a loyal ally of Mugabe’s since the fight for independence in 1970s.
It has long been an open secret that the former state security chief hoped to succeed Mugabe.
75-year-old Mnangagwa, once a core member of Mugabe’s inner circle and helped direct the 1970s war of independence.
He was head of the secret police during the 1980s civil conflict in which thousands of civilians died.
Mnangagwa has denied any part in the massacre and blamed the army.
He served as Vice President of Zimbabwe from 2014 until earlier this month when he was dismissed “for plotting against the government”.
Mnangagwa fled to South Africa and returned to launch the coup to end Mugabe’s rule.
Known as the crocodile for his political resilience, sources say his faction in Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party is nicknamed Lacoste.
Mnangagwa who is now back in the country is now in line to head an interim post-Mugabe unity government that will focus on rebuilding ties with the outside world and stabilising an economy in freefall and could now lead a transitional government until the general election in five years time.
Mark Canning, the UK’s former ambassadors to Zimbabwe, has warned of the Crocodile’s “pretty fearsome reputation”.
“What we’ve seen… is all about reasserting what the generals, and presumably Mnangagwa, see as the rightful succession to President Mugabe,” he added.
“That succession was interrupted by Mrs [Grace] Mugabe’s ambitions, and the action of her clique.”
South African journalist Redi Tlhabi told CNN that Mnangagwa is “just an extension” of Mugabe and he is “no democrat”.
Born in central Zimbabwe in 1942, Mnangagwa grew up to become one of the richest men in Zimbabwe.
He studied for a law degree while in Zambia, before playing a key role in Zimbabwe’s bid for independence, which was granted in 1980.
Mnangagwa is one of Mugabe’s former guerrilla comrades who joined Mugabe in exile in Mozambique as his special assistant.
However, cracks began to show in Mnangagwa and Mugabe’s relationship in 2008 when Mugabe’s wife Grace launched the Generation 40 faction of Zanu-PF.
After losing the Vice Presidency just over a week ago, Mnangagwa fled to South Africa.
Many believe that Mnangagwa and his ally General Constantino Chiwenga worked conspired together to have Mugabe and Grace removed.
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