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Zimbabwe Is In A Stalemate After Military Takeover


After a military takeover last week in Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe refuses to resign. Parliament has announced it will begin impeachment proceedings tomorrow. The man likely to succeed him is the country's former vice president who Mugabe fired two weeks ago, kicking off this crisis. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton tells us more about the man nicknamed the Crocodile.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Emmerson Mnangagwa is in many ways the antithesis of charismatic, articulate Robert Mugabe. The 75-year-old is known as a ruthless and skillful political operator. He also fought in the guerrilla war against white minority rule in Rhodesia in the '60s and '70s. After Zimbabwe's birth in 1980, Mnangagwa was appointed minister of security. Three years ago, Mugabe named him as a vice president.


PRESIDENT ROBERT MUGABE: There are two vice presidents. One of whom would be drawn from Zanu is Emmerson Mnangagwa.


QUIST-ARCTON: Veteran Zimbabwean journalist and Africa commentator Michelle Faul says it appeared Mugabe was grooming the Crocodile as his heir apparent. But instead, on November 6, Mugabe fired Mnangagwa reportedly to clear the way for his wife, First Lady Grace Mugabe, to succeed him as president.

MICHELLE FAUL: He is one of the original people who began the war to free Zimbabwe from white supremacist rule. It's been years in 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.

QUIST-ARCTON: War vet Mnangagwa still retains the army's support, and Mugabe's move triggered last week's military takeover, a de facto coup. Mnangagwa disappeared into a brief exile in South Africa, pledging to return to lead Zimbabwe. So what went wrong between Mugabe and Mnangagwa?

ANDREW MELDRUM: Emmerson Mnangagwa himself characterizes their relationship as father and son.

QUIST-ARCTON: Andrew Meldrum is the author of "Where We Have Hope," a memoir of his 23 years as a journalist in Zimbabwe until he was kicked out. Meldrum's now acting Africa editor, Associated Press.

MELDRUM: He worked for more than 40 years as Robert Mugabe's right-hand man. Generally he was known as Mugabe's enforcer and his bodyguard. Emmerson Mnangagwa has a heavy-lidded gaze that some say is sinister. He's there, and he just watches.

QUIST-ARCTON: Mnangagwa later became Mugabe's spymaster and is viewed as having been behind massacres in the early 1980s when the military crushed perceived dissidents in Zimbabwe's Matabeleland in the south and west. Zimbabweans hold war veterans in high esteem, and Mugabe is still considered by many the father of the nation. But the leader of Zimbabwe's war vets, Chris Mutsvangwa, says it's time for Mugabe to go.

CHRIS MUTSVANGWA: He has had 37 years in power. He shouldn't even be there for another 37 seconds.

QUIST-ARCTON: The governing ZANU-PF over the weekend chose Mnangagwa to replace Mugabe as party chief. This could open the way for Mnangagwa to become president if Mugabe is impeached by Parliament. Zimbabwean commentator Michelle Faul says Mnangagwa and Mugabe are in many ways birds of a feather. But she says Zimbabweans are hoping for a change and a better life.

FAUL: Zimbabweans are optimistic no matter who's up there. The end of Mugabe has got to mean we believe that something better is coming.

QUIST-ARCTON: Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Johannesburg. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.