Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa (born 15 September 1942) is a Zimbabwean politician who has been Vice-President of Zimbabwe since 2014. He was Minister of State Security from 1980 to 1988, Minister of Justice from 1988 to 2000, Speaker of Parliament from 2000 to 2005, Minister of Rural Housing from 2005 to 2009, Minister of Defense from 2009 to 2013, and has served as Minister of Justice since 2013.
Mnangagwa is thought to be one of the most powerful figures in the ruling ZANU-PF party, head of the Joint Operations Command and a leading candidate to succeed Robert Mugabe. He was ZANU-PF’s Secretary of Administration from July 2000 to December 2004 and became its Secretary for Legal Affairs in December 2004.
On 10 December 2014, President Mugabe appointed Mnangagwa as Vice-President of Zimbabwe. In that post, Mnangagwa also continued to serve as Minister of Justice.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING
He completed his early education up to Standard 4 at Lundi Primary School in Mnangagwa Village, Zvishavane, but the repressive political situation forced his family to relocate to Northern Rhodesia in 1955 where he completed Standard 4. He successfully completed his standard 5 and 6 at Mumbwa Boarding School from 1956 to 1957 and enrolled at Kafue Trade School for a Building course. Although it was a three-year course, he was selected to enter Hodgson Technical College. Since the college only accepted applicants with “O” Levels, he sat for an entry examination, and achieved a first class result. This enabled him to enroll for a four-year City and Guilds Industrial Building Course. With others, he was subsequently expelled from college in 1960 for political activism which led to the burning of some property. He had joined the UNIP student movement at the college and had already been elected into the executive.
He completed his “O” and “‘A” levels while in prison through correspondence following which he enrolled for a law degree. He wanted to register for a BSc Economics degree but instead took the Law degree. He successfully completed Part One of the Intermediate Exams at Khami prison and passed at his first seating. He sat for the final exams and passed again. In 1972 he sat for his final LLB examinations with the University of London
After his release from prison and subsequent deportation to Zambia, the Party resolved that he should complete his law degree first and so he enrolled at the University of Zambia where he remained from 1973 to 1974. In 1975, he did his post-graduate LLB degree and another post programme in Advocacy. After successfully completing his law studies, he was admitted to the Bar of the High Court of Zambia in 1976.
Regarded as the wealthiest individual in Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa has close business links with Col. Lionel Dyck, a white officer from the old Rhodesian Army who founded Mine Tech, a landmine clearance company that secured lucrative contracts from the Zimbabwean government to clear landmines in Zimbabwean border areas after the war. Mine Tech is now owned by the British company Exploration Logistics whose chairman is Alastair Morrison OBE, MC, a former equerry of HRH The Duke of Gloucester and a former 2ic. of 22 SAS. Mine Tech now has substantial UN and UK/EU contracts as well as its on-going Zimbabwe operations.
In 1960, he was expelled from Hodgson Technical College for political activism which had resulted in the burning of some property. Following this incident, he joined hands with three others and started a construction company at Nampala which lasted for three months. He was asked by the United National Independence Party to help organise the party at Chililabombwe (Bancroft) until the end of 1961. Following this, he returned to Lusaka where he became Secretary for the UNIP Youth League while working for a private company.
In 1962 he was recruited into Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) by Willie Musarurwa. After joining ZAPU, he left for Tanzania where he stayed in Mbeya and then at the new ZAPU training camp with the likes of James Chikerema, Clement Muchachi and Danha. In April 1963, Mnangagwa, along with twelve other ZAPU cadre members, was sent to Dar es Salaam and on to Egypt for military training at the Heliopolis Training School.
In August 1963 he and ten of the thirteen cadre members decided to join the newly formed Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). This led to their detention by Egyptian authorities who recognised ZAPU which had funds, but not ZANU which had none. During this detention, the ZANU members communicated with Robert Mugabe who was in Tanganyika at the time and told him that eleven students had broken away from ZAPU, stopped training and were now detained. Mugabe diverted Trynos Makombe, who was travelling from China, to come to Egypt to secure their release. Makombe provided them with tickets to fly to Dar es Salaam.
On arrival in Tanganyika, six of the eleven came back to Rhodesia while Mnangagwa and the remaining five joined the first Frelimo Camp at Bagamoyo in late August 1963. Mnangagwa was sent to China with other Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) cadre members, where they spent the first two months at the School of Ideology in Beijing. Combat training was conducted in Nanking for the next three months. Mnangagwa subsequently remained at another school for military engineering. The group consisted of Felix Santana, Robert Garachani, Lloyd Gundu, Phebion Shonhiwa, and John Chigaba. After completing military training in May 1964, they went back to Tanganyika, where they formed the “Crocodile Group”. There were no weapons available for them to operate in the then–Southern Rhodesia, despite this duty having been assigned to John Mataure and Noel Mukono.
The group rushed to attend the ZANU Congress in Mkoba, Gweru, sometime in May 1964, arriving a day before the Congress. The results of the election were as follows:
- Rev Ndabaningi Sithole: President
- Leopold Takawira: Vice-President
- Herbert Chitepo: National chairman
- Robert Mugabe: Secretary General
Following the ZANU Congress, three of his colleagues, i.e., Shoniwa, Jameson Mudavanhu, and Edison Shirihuru, were captured and arrested for smuggling guns into Southern Rhodesia. He sent Lawrence Svosve to go back to Lusaka with some messages but never saw him again.
In spite of this setback, the Crocodile Group remained in operation and was joined by Matthew Malowa, a ZANU member who had trained in Egypt. In addition to smuggling arms into the country, a major task was to recruit supporters from Salisbury, Fort Victoria, Mberengwa, and Macheke and smuggle them out through the border at Mutoko, so that they could go on to Tanzania for training, both political and guerilla. The Crocodile Group traveled entirely by foot between Salisbury and Mutoko.
The ZANU leadership at Sikombela sent the Crocodile Group a message exhorting them to take some action so that the papers would report that it, and indicate that it was under the orders of the ZANU Military High Command. The intent was that the news clippings would then be shown to the OAU The Liberation Committee which was meeting in Dar es Salaam so that it would see that ZANU was actually active in the country. The message was delivered by William Ndangana who met with the Crocodile Group at Rev Ndabaningi Sithole’s house in Highfield. The plan was to establish roadblocks to terrorise the whites. At this point the group, known by the Rhodesians as the “Crocodile Gang”, included William Ndangana, Mnangagwa, Matthew Malowa, Victor Mlambo, James Dhlamini and Master Tresha. It was during this operation that they killed a resident farmer and police reservist, Petrus Oberholtzer, at Nyanyadzi in Chimanimani, and sabotaged a locomotive train in Fort Victoria. The incident resulted in the capture and subsequent hanging of James Dhlamini and Victor Mlambo. It was in January 1965, Mnangagwa was arrested by police inspectors at Michael Mawema’s house in Highfield. It later transpired that Mawema had betrayed him to the Rhodesian police. One of Mnangagwa’s other associates, John Chigaba, was later detained for an attempt on Mawema’s life.
Mnangagwa confessed under torture that he had blown up the locomotive in Masvingo and was convicted under the Law and Order Maintenance Act. He was defended by J. J. Horn of Scanlen and Holderness who pleaded that he was under age and could not be executed. Following this, he was taken to hospital where doctors confirmed that he was under 21 and as a result, he was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment. He served the first year at Salisbury Prison and then went to Grey Prison following which he was sent to Khami Prison where he spent six years and eight months.
After serving his ten-year sentence, he was further detained at Khami and then at Harare Prison together with other nationalists like Robert Mugabe, Enos Nkala, Maurice Nyagumbo, Edgar Tekere and Didymus Mutasa. He was then deported to Zambia where his parents were.
Mnangagwa was received by the Party at the Livingstone Border post and handed over to the Zambian police. A Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) representative, Baya, came to receive him at the Victoria Falls Bridge and proceeded with him to Lusaka. Josiah Tongogara was Commander of ZANLA.
After completing his studies at the University of Zambia, he practised law with Enoch Dumbutshena and doubled up as Secretary for ZANU for the Zambia Division in Lusaka. He was also in the student board for politics at the University of Zambia.
At the Chimoio Congress in 1977, he was elected Special Assistant to the President and member of the National Executive for ZANU. He then left practice and joined the President around October 1977 in Chimoio. The post of Special Assistant meant that he was head of both the civil and military divisions of the Party. His number 2 was Gava (now Retired General Zvinavashe) who was Head of Security in the Military High Command but was his deputy in the Central Committee in the Department of Security.
He participated in the Lancaster House Conference and in January 1980, led the first group of civilian leaders which included Didymus Mutasa and Edson Zvobgo from Maputo to Zimbabwe. Rex Nhongo (now Retired General Mujuru) also led the first group of commanders numbering 28 from Maputo to the ceasefire.
PARLIAMENTARY AND MINISTERIAL CAREER
He became the first Minister of National Security from 1980 to 1988, and after General Peter Walls left the country under dubious circumstances related to making plans for a coup, he took over as Chairman of the Joint High Command. The task involved responsibility for the integration of ZANLA, the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) and the Rhodesian Army. From 1988 to 2000, he was Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Leader of the House. This was the period following the Unity Accord. He was appointed Acting Minister of Finance for 15 months from 1995 to 1996 and was also Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs for a short period. His tenure as Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs saw him setting up the Judicial College and the Small Claims Court to address the critical shortage of magistrates, prosecutors and other judicial officers in the country. He also introduced several amendments to various Acts and the Constitution.
Mnangagwa was defeated in the 2000 parliamentary election by Blessing Chebundo of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in Kwekwe constituency, but Mugabe appointed him to one of the unelected seats in Parliament. Following the election, he was elected as Speaker of Parliament on 18 July 2000. It was during his time as Speaker of Parliament that the UN investigation into illegal exploitation of natural resources from the Congo recommended a travel ban and financial restrictions upon him for his involvement in making Harare a significant illicit diamond trading centre. In the March 2005 parliamentary election, he was again defeated by Chebundo in Kwekwe, and Mugabe again appointed him to an unelected seat. His campaign manager blamed this defeat on the Mujuru faction, saying that it had “manipulated the situation” so that the MDC could win the seat and thereby undermine Mnangagwa. In the March 2008 parliamentary election, he stood as ZANU-PF’s candidate in the new Chirumanzi–Zibagwe rural constituency and won by an overwhelming margin, receiving 9,645 votes against two MDC candidates, Mudavanhu Masendeke and Thomas Michael Dzingisai, who respectively received 1,548 and 894 votes.
Mnangagwa was Mugabe’s chief election agent during the 2008 presidential election, and it was reported that he headed Mugabe’s campaign behind the scenes. When a national unity government was sworn in on 13 February 2009, Mnangagwa became Minister of Defense. Following Mugabe’s victory in the July 2013 presidential election, he moved Mnangagwa to the post of Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs on 10 September 2013.
On 10 December 2014, Mugabe appointed Mnangagwa as Vice-President of Zimbabwe, appearing to confirm his position as the presumed successor to Mugabe. His appointment followed the dismissal of his long-time rival in the succession battle, Joice Mujuru, who was cast into the political wilderness amidst allegations that she had plotted against Mugabe. Mnangagwa was sworn in as Vice-President on 12 December 2014, and he was also retained in his post as Minister of Justice. Soon afterward it was reported that Mugabe had begun delegating some presidential duties to Mnangagwa.
INDIGENIZATION AND BLACK ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT
Emmerson Mnangagwa has, since the early 1990s, played a key role in implementing the Indigenization & Black Economic Empowerment initiative, as advised by prominent Indigenous Businessmen such as Ben Mucheche, John Mapondera & Paul Tangi Mhova Mkondo, Think Tank & Lobby Group IBDC, how to propel the policy from Local policy, Ministerial Policy, Government Policy & Development of a ministry specific to Indigenization & Black Economic Empowerment, such as Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Bill. Mnangagwa believes that the national resources should be protected by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
It has been an open secret in Zimbabwe for many years that Emmerson Mnangagwa would like to succeed Robert Mugabe as president.
His rise to power began as a young man, when he helped direct Zimbabwe’s 1970s war of independence and later became the country’s spy-master during the 1980s civil conflict. He worked closely with Dan Stannard, who was one of the few whites who remained in the Zimbabwean secret service, CIO, after the departure of Ken Flower.
On 17 December 2004, he lost his post as Zanu-PF Secretary for Administration and was instead named Secretary for Legal Affairs, in what was considered a demotion. As Secretary for Administration he had been able to place his supporters in key party positions. The move followed reports that Mnangagwa had been campaigning too hard for the post of vice-president, backed by his close ally, former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo. Mugabe sacked Moyo from both his party and government posts. The President has instead reportedly become alarmed at the activities of Joyce Mujuru, who got the vice-president’s job, and her powerful husband, former army chief Solomon Mujuru.
Prior to his appointment as vice president, Mnangagwa’s main opponent as potential successor to Robert Mugabe was Joice Mujuru as she had garnered a large amount of support in the politburo, central committee, presidium, and among the provincial party chairs. Mr. Mnangagwa’s support came from the senior ranks of the security establishment, as well as parts of ZANU PF’s parliamentary caucus and younger party members. With Mnangagwa appointment as vice president, Dr. Mujuru and some of her key supports were dismissed from the government and from the party. Mnangagwa has a strong image in Zimbabwe as a cultivator of stability, and also has support from the Southern African Development Community.
2007 ZIMBABWEAN COUP D’ÉTAT ATTEMPT
The Zimbabwean government foiled an alleged coup d’état attempt involving almost 400 soldiers and high-ranking members of the military that would have occurred on 2 or 15 June 2007. The alleged leaders of the coup, all of whom were arrested and charged with treason, were retired army Captain Albert Matapo, spokesman for the Zimbabwe National Army Ben Ncube, Major General Engelbert Rugeje, and Air Vice Marshal Elson Moyo.
According to the government the soldiers planned on forcibly removing President Robert Mugabe from office and asking Mnangagwa to form a government with the heads of the armed forces. The government first heard of the plot when a former army officer who opposed the coup contacted the police in Paris, France, giving them a map and a list of those involved. Mnangagwa and State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa both said they did not know about the plot, Mnangagwa calling it “stupid”.
Some analysts speculated that rival successors to Mugabe, such as former Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army leader Solomon Mujuru, might have been trying to discredit Mnangagwa.
- Minister of State Security (1980–1988)
- Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs (1989–2000)
- Acting Minister of Finance (1995–1996)
- Speaker of the House of Assembly (2000–2005)
- Minister of Rural Housing and Social Amenities (2005–2009)
- Minister of Defence (2009–present)
- Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs (2013–present)
- First Vice President of Zimbabwe (2014–present)