While it appeared the 93-year-old Mugabe was willing to hold on to power for as long as he could, old age was always an adversary he could never defeat.
With the knowledge that Mugabe would cease to rule the nation one day, a lot of debates had revolved around who was going to be his successor.
For a long time, Mnangagwa appeared to be a shoe-in for that role having been Mugabe’s protege since the two fought for the country’s independence in the 1970s.
When he was appointed as Mugabe’s deputy in 2014 after a string of cabinet positions throughout the decades, Mnangagwa was widely seen as the heir-apparent to the throne.
His place became threatened when a faction of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), Generation 40, started a movement to replace the older officials of the party of which Mnangagwa was one.
Fiercely outspoken former First Lady, Grace Mugabe, was the face of this movement with many public rants against Mnangagwa and his own ZANU-PF faction nicknamed Lacoste.
With his role in Zimbabwe’s war of independence and separate stints as Minister of State Security and Minister of Defense, Mnangagwa had deep connections in the military and is an ally of General Chiwenga.
He said, “It is with humility and a heavy heart that we come before you to pronounce the indisputable reality that there is instability in Zanu-PF today and as a result anxiety in the country at large.”
Mugabe’s influence has undoubtedly waned as he aged over the past few years with reports of a failing health.
In that period, he’s been able to consolidate power through influential allies like Mnangagwa who played a critical role in brokering a power-sharing pact between him and Morgan Tsvangirai after the disputed 2008 presidential election result.
With support from Zimbabwe’s security establishment and veterans of the 1970s guerrilla war, Mnangagwa’s sacking was very pivotal to bringing Mugabe’s rule to a humiliating end.
With several corruption allegations against his government (Transparency International estimates that Zimbabwe loses $1 billion per year to corruption), Mugabe’s perceived attempt to install his wife as his successor was too much for Zimbabwe to swallow.
With Zimbabwe’s poverty rate at 72%, inflation peaking at 231,000,000% and a stagnant GDP growth, it wasn’t hard to get the Zimbabwean people to back the military’s action.
Mnangagwa has a troubled history that most notably includes human rights abuses against political opponents and ethnic minorities, acts he purportedly carried out for Mugabe.
With the man nicknamed “The Crocodile” about to wield power over the country’s lucrative farm and mining operations, at least until the 2018 elections, fingers remain crossed to see where the southern African country goes from here.
While the country should celebrate getting rid of Mugabe in the unfortunate circumstances it did, it should stay conscious enough to be sure it is not creating another despot.