Introducing... Emmerson Mnangagwa

Last November, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, then the world’s oldest head of state at 93 and one of the longest serving too, was forced out of power.

Mnangagwa, a 75-year-old Methodist, is a veteran of Zimbabwean politics and a long-time ally of his former boss. The military and the Chinese government seem to have been on-side with the coup, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall for the unpopular old man. And Mugabe’s fall was greeted by widespread enthusiasm on the streets of Harare by citizens desperate for relief from corruption and dictatorship.

But Mnangagwa’s history is not re-assuring for Zimbabweans interested in human rights. The Crocodile was Mugabe’s security minister during the brutal intervention in Matabeleland North Province in the 1980s when some 20,000 mainly Ndebele civilians were massacred. After a time in the political wilderness, he returned to favour during the 2008 election when he ran a violent campaign against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

The shrewd Crocodile claims to have changed his scales and is now standing for all things wholesome: an end to corruption, a return to prosperity, a re-engagement with the world and a fair election in 2018. These are things Africans with autocratic governments have been promised before with decidedly mixed results. The roundup and robbery of street vendors in Harare just weeks after the Crocodile ascended to the presidential throne is an unpromising sign.