Zimbabwe’s president seeks re-election for 2nd term


Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa is a former guerrilla fighter and bodyguard who responded to being fired as vice president by unseating Robert Mugabe, his own mentor and one of the world’s longest-ruling leaders, in a coup.
Mnangagwa is now seeking reelection for a second term as president in a vote this week that could see the ruling ZANU-PF party extend its 43-year hold on power in the southern African nation struggling under international sanctions. Zimbabwe has been governed by ZANU-PF ever since it won independence from white minority rule in 1980. Mnangagwa’s nickname — “the crocodile” — fits well for a man praised by supporters for his political cunning and criticised by others for a ruthless streak.
Mnangagwa replaced the autocratic Mugabe as president after a military-led coup in 2017, won a disputed election in 2018, and has become Zimbabwe’s new strongman in the same Mugabe mould, critics say. It’s despite promises he made of freedom and democracy for the country’s 15 million people when he replaced a man he supported – and once protected as a bodyguard. Mugabe had led Zimbabwe for 37 years and appeared immovable.
Under the constitution, this should be the 80-year-old Mnangagwa’s last term if he wins this election. However, parts of his party have said the law should be changed back to the way it was during much of Mugabe’s time to allow Mnangagwa to stay on as president. Mnangagwa has not rejected the idea, telling a Christian group recently: “If you want to rule the country forever, you come to church and be prayed for.”
At stake is the direction of a nation with rich agricultural and mineral potential but which has been shunned by the West for more than two decades because of human rights abuses, and has increasingly turned to China and Russia amid its long-running economic problems. Zimbabwe has Africa’s largest deposits of the highly sought-after battery mineral lithium to attract renewed interest from China. While Mnangagwa promised a break from the repressive and isolationist era under Mugabe, there’s been little sign of change.