THE Crocodile is his moniker. He came to power in a dramatic two weeks in November 2017. His rise was heralded as a new dispensation for the southern African country, but since then all his actions are proving it was a false dawn.
Crocodiles are known for their patience, waiting still like dead logs in the shallow ends of a stream. However, their attacks are swift and devastating, leaving ripples or some red blood floating if the prey offered resistance.
At his inauguration, President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised a new way of doing business.
“I implore you all to declare that never again should the circumstances that have put Zimbabwe in an unfavourable position be allowed to recur or overshadow its prospects. We must work together, you, me, all of us who make up this nation,” he said then.
“Above all, we must always remember and realise that we hold and run this country in trust. It belongs to future generations whose possibilities must never be foreclosed or mortgaged as a result of decisions of expediency we might selfishly make today out of fear of difficult choices and decisions that have to be made.”
He added: “As we focus on recovering our economy, we must shed misbehaviours and acts of indiscipline which have characterised the past. Acts of corruption must stop forthwith. Where these occur, swift justice must be served to show each and all that crime and other acts of economic sabotage can only guarantee ruin to perpetrators.”
These were noble intentions, a statement of intent that was soon proven to be just hollow. It did not take long for Mnangagwa’s true colours to come out.
A hawkish Mnangagwa unleashed the military against unarmed civilians for protesting the delayed announcement of the tightly contested presidential election results.
The message was clear, the new regime, unlike the Robert Mugabe government, did not have qualms about quelling dissent using firearms.
The regime is about consolidating the gains of the coup, entrenching its rule.
The violence was nothing new, Zimbabweans have experienced State brutality since the Rhodesian days. It has been part of their staple for as long as the country existed.
After independence in 1980, they also experienced Gukurahundi, an ethnic cleansing operation that killed over 20 000 unarmed civilians in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces, while the vile 2005 Operation Murambatsvina and bloody presidential elections of 2002 and 2008 are among the notable excesses.
The Crocodile has always had his eyes on the big prize, the imperial presidency. He wanted to be the Lord of the Manor. Mnangagwa would not allow the trifles of the 2013 Constitution stand in his way. He immediately started decimating the charter with calculated and spirited zest.
In Constitutional Amendment Number 1, Mnangagwa allocated himself the power to appoint the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice, Judge President and the Prosecutor-General without going through public interviews as the Constitution dictates.
The President has not stopped. He quickly followed it up with Amendment Number 2 that increased his powers to appoint judges to the Constitutional and Supreme courts without public interviews. He also dispensed with the presidential running mate clause and extended the tenure of Constitutional Court judges beyond retirement age of 70.
Mnangagwa did not make the changes for decorative purposes, he immediately brought them to use. Since his inauguration four years ago, he has appointed 30 judges, including the CJ, DCJ and JP. He has also appointed and filled Constitutional and Supreme court benches.
Curiously, Mnangagwa also created a parallel graft fighting arm — named Special Anti-Corruption Unit (Sacu) which reports to him directly. The man is now at the centre of everything. He started his 2023 presidential campaign soon after the Constitutional Court confirmed his win following a challenge by opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa.
On the political front, Mnangagwa has reshuffled and reshaped the military and intelligence sectors to his liking. Some of the generals that were involved in the 2017 coup have been posted to diplomatic assignments in Russia, DRC, Mozambique and Tanzania. In many ways, his actions can be interpreted as coup-proofing.
In a space of three years, Mnangagwa has taken Zimbabwe back to 1987.
This is a year that Zanu PF, using its super majority in Parliament amended the Constitution to give Zimbabwe an imperial presidency, the all-powerful office that also has equal power to Parliament to make laws.