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Mnangagwa: Who is the man poised to take over from Mugabe?

Emmerson Mnangagwa, known as 'the crocodile', may soon take his boss' job.

Mr Mnangagwa has been a leading government figure since Zimbabwe's independence
Mr Mnangagwa has been a leading government figure since Zimbabwe's independence AP

Robert Mugabe's dismissal of his vice-president and longtime ally Emmerson Mnangagwa may prove to be his downfall.

While Mr Mugabe is refusing to leave, the man known as "the crocodile" - who for decades served as Mr Mugabe's enforcer - appears set to eventually take over from him.

So who is the man who has masterminded such a remarkable turn of events?

Mr Mnangagwa has been a leading government figure since Zimbabwe's independence in 1980.

He became vice president in 2014 but was dismissed just over a week ago, with Mr Mugabe claiming he was schemeing against him.

He vowed to return and now, with his former friend effectively under house arrest, he has been elected the new leader of Zimbabwe's ruling political party ZANU-PF, replacing Mr Mugabe who has led it since 1977.

Mr Mnangagwa was for years Mr Mugabe's enforcer
Mr Mnangagwa was for years Mr Mugabe's enforcer AP

Among Zimbabweans, Mr Mnangagwa is more feared than popular, but he has strategically fostered a loyal support base within the military and security forces.

Mr Mnangagwa joined the fight against white minority rule in Zimbabwe - then known as Rhodesia - as a teenager in the 1960s.

In 1963, he received military training in Egypt and China.

As one of the earliest guerrilla fighters against Ian Smith's government he was captured, tortured and convicted of blowing up a locomotive in 1965.

Sentenced to death by hanging, he was found to be under 21, and his punishment was commuted to 10 years and he found himself in prison with other prominent nationalists, including Mr Mugabe.

While imprisoned, Mnangagwa studied through a correspondence school and after his release in 1975, he went to Zambia, where he became a practicing lawyer.

Soon he went to newly independent Marxist Mozambique, where he became Mugabe's assistant and bodyguard.

In 1979, he accompanied Mugabe to the Lancaster House talks in London that led to the end of Rhodesia and the birth of Zimbabwe.

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