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Emmerson Mnangagwa says he is a born-again Christian

FILE — In this Dec. 2014 file photo, Emmerson Mnangagwa, left, Vice President of Zimbabwe stands behind Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe after his swearing in ceremony at State House in Harare. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File)

Zimbabwe has a new leader for the first time in almost four decades following Emmerson Mnangagwa’s swearing in as interim President.

He took oath of office on Friday in front of over 70,000 people in Harare’s main sports stadium. This “unforeseen” transition in power came following Robert Mugabe’s historic resignation this week.

Mnangagwa raised a loud cheer during the inaugural when he pledged that “free and fair elections” would be held next year as scheduled and that the “people’s voice would be heard”.

Nicknamed “the crocodile” — in reference to his reputation for ruthlessness as Mugabe’s “enforcer,” Mnangagwa once told local reporters he had been taught to ‘destroy and kill’, though he later claimed to be a born-again Christian.

There is little evidence, according to sources, of a public nature at least, when it comes to his faith, but plenty of suggestions that Mnangagwa has ‘blood on his hands’ in the unrest in Zimbabwe.

According to human rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, nothing is going to change in Zimbabwe‚ because “President Robert Mugabe and the military leaders who seized power made decisions together for the last 37 years.”

Bishop Abel Gabuza of Kimberley, who chairs the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference justice and peace commission, said the military action in Zimbabwe was “not expected.”

In the early days after independence from Britain in 1980, Mugabe made Mnangagwa, who was then a young trainee lawyer, minister for national security. Since then Mnangagwa occupied a host of cabinet positions — but relations between him and his political mentor have not always been cosy, and the younger man is no stranger to presidential purges.

The 2008 elections, when he was made Mugabe’s chief election agent, changed Mnangagwa’s fortunes.

Mugabe lost the first round, but his supporters were not going to make the same mistake in the second round, which was marred by violence, intimidation and allegations of vote rigging.

He was targeted by EU and US sanctions imposed on Mugabe and his close allies over the elections and violence, but promptly given control of the powerful defence ministry.

Having instigated the leadership crisis by his departure weeks ago, his rise to the top is the culmination of a career that has justly earned him his fearsome nickname – And hopes that Mugabe’s departure will herald a new dawn for the ordinary, suffering people of Zimbabwe.

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