Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to return to Zimbabwe on Wednesday more than two weeks after Mugabe fired him triggering a political firestorm that ended the 93-year-old's rule. Following a night of cheering, singing and dancing in euphoric celebration, Zimbabwe awoke Wednesday to its first day in almost four decades without the leader who had ruled the country with an iron fist.Hundreds of Mnangagwa's supporters waited at the airport in Harare for the man dubbed "The Crocodile" to return and open a new chapter in the country's history.But for many others, this joyous first day without Mugabe is tempered with apprehension — Mnanagagwa served as Mugabe's right-hand man for his entire career, and to many Zimbabweans, he is more feared than the man he replaces.The main opposition MDC-T has shown no resistance to Mnangagwa serving as transitional leader. It will be looking instead to make inroads in elections slated for next year. "We are very excited that we have gotten rid of Robert Mugabe, but we have gotten rid of one man, we have not gotten rid of the system that was oppressive for 37 years," MDC-T Secretary General Douglas Mwonzora told CNN."Therefore we have to work towards conditions for free and fair elections. The Zimbabwean people still have to choose a president by themselves."Mnangagwa has not been seen in the country since his dismissal on November 6 and had previously said that he wouldn't return until his safety was guaranteed. Sources told CNN that Mnangagwa was instrumental in plans to dethrone Mugabe. He was widely tipped to take over for Mugabe in the event of the president's resignation or death, but his dismissal confirmed suspicions that Mugabe was clearing the way for his wife, Grace Mugabe, to succeed him.Generals in the military staged an apparent coup in Harare last week, determined to keep Grace Mugabe from seizing power, and placed Robert Mugabe under house arrest as pressure mounted on him to resign.
Emmerson 'The Crocodile' Mnangagwa
Known as "The Crocodile" for his political cunning and longevity, Mnangagwa is among the country's combat-hardened veterans of the struggle for liberation from white-minority rule.His background and experience is almost entirely hitched to Mugabe's career. He was Mugabe's right-hand man and became a key strategist for the former president.Mnangagwa was the country's spy chief in the 1980s when a campaign of terror was unleashed by the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade against political opponents and civilians, in which thousands were killed. Mnangagwa has denied involvement and blamed the army.He is placed in the center of Zimbabwe's cluster of power, with strong backing from the country's elite and the military, but it is unclear whether he will be able to win the hearts of the people and win next year's election.
CNN's Angela Dewan wrote from London.