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Who is Emmerson Mnangagwa? Zimabawe Cautious Of Potential Next President


Let's stay in Zimbabwe, where, as we just learned, President Robert Mugabe is refusing to resign, although his own political party has dismissed him. And there are reports that officials say that they will move forward to impeach him if he doesn't step down. We wanted to learn a bit more about one of the figures who is looming large over this current political crisis. His name is Emmerson Mnangagwa, and he was Mugabe's vice president until he was fired more than a week ago. Now Mnangagwa has been named party chief. He is seen as a possible successor.

We wanted to hear more about him, so we've called Michelle Faul. She's reported in the region for years. We reached her actually in York, England, via Skype today. Ms. Faul, thank you so much for speaking with us.

MICHELLE FAUL: You're welcome.

MARTIN: Please tell us more about Emmerson Mnangagwa. Why is he looming so large over this current situation?

FAUL: Emmerson Mnangagwa has long been considered the most probable successor, and he is probably the key mover behind the coup that we saw. You know, it's been years of him fighting over who will succeed Mugabe. And the firing of Mnangagwa opened the way for Mugabe's wife, Grace, to try to become the president of Zimbabwe. And I think this anger at not just people like Mnangagwa but the generals with whom he has a really good relationship because he has excellent liberation credentials. He is one of the original people who began the war to free Zimbabwe from white supremacist rule.

MARTIN: Has Mnangagwa been seen since all these events have taken place? What are your sources telling you?

FAUL: He has not been seen, but he is known to have returned home. He had been in South Africa. It's understood that this coup had been in the planning for weeks, and they had been outside the country telling leaders who are close to Zimbabwe, we're planning this. It has to be done. Give us your support.

MARTIN: We've seen a number of reports that suggest that he is potentially even more repressive a leader than Mugabe was. What gives rise to that reputation? And in your assessment, is it justified?

FAUL: Oh, I think he certainly causes more terror in Zimbabwe than Mugabe. He is the man that is considered the orchestrator of what we call Gukurahundi. These were the killings of the minority Ndebele people. Mnangagwa went on to become the head of the CIO - the Central Intelligence Organization, another much feared agency in Zimbabwe known for disappearing people, picking up people, torturing them. You might live. You might never be seen again. You know, Zimbabweans I know - I'm Zimbabwean - we're ululating all around the world. And we are celebrating, but we need to be cautious. This is not a revolution to bring reform. This is about an internal ZANU-PF coup to ensure that ZANU continues its one-party rule of Zimbabwe.

MARTIN: Given everything that you've told us, what accounted for that sense of euphoria over the weekend with these large demonstrations against Mugabe, it does not appear from what you've told us that Mnangagwa is the person to lead a transitional government that would hold free and fair elections.

FAUL: I have been speaking to people at home. They make the point - all these people have blood on their hands, all of them. Mnangagwa is seen as someone who has good business acumen, who understands the need for foreign investment and is willing to entertain that and who recently has been making surprising noises about things like inviting the white farmers who were forced off their land to return to Zimbabwe and also has said that he's willing to work with the opposition. They're seeing this as a sign that Mnangagwa realizes you cannot continue the type of despotic, greedy, corrupt rule that has become the order of the day in Zimbabwe. And that's why Zimbabweans are optimistic. No matter who's up there, the end of Mugabe has got to mean, we believe, that something better is coming.

MARTIN: That's Michelle Faul. She is a journalist who served as Nigeria Bureau Chief for The Associated Press. We reached her in York, England, via Skype. Michelle Faul, thank you so much for speaking with us.

FAUL: You're most welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.