Can the man they call 'The Crocodile' be a leader for all of Zimbabwe — not just for the ruling party?

Will Emmerson Mnangagwa be a leader for all of Zimbabwe and not just the narrow interests of the Zanu-PF ruling party? There are plenty of skeptics.

There are plenty who believe Emmerson Mnangagwa will slide back into the sins and failures of his predecessor

Zimbabwe's incoming president Emmerson Mnangagwa, left, speaks to supporters flanked by his wife Auxilia at the ruling Zanu-PF party headquarters in Harare on Wednesday. (Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images)

Finding a place at Heroes Acre perched high on a hill on the edge of Harare is no easy feat. For one thing, you have to be dead.

You also have to be associated with Zimbabwe's struggle for liberation from white minority rule or to have proven an extraordinary commitment to the country in more recent times.

And even if you do meet those criteria, you still have to get the seal of approval to be buried at the cemetery and national monument from the politburo of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

The Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front has been in power since the country's independence in 1980.

The recently departed — at least politically — Robert Mugabe is on record saying Zanu-PF alone has authority to decide who is or isn't eligible for hero status in Zimbabwe.

Doctors, social workers, union leaders and opposition figures need not apply. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change has challenged the unilateral decision-making to no avail in the past.

It's a good metaphor for the main challenge facing Zimbabwe's new President Emmerson Mnangagwa, especially sitting as it does just opposite the national sports stadium being used for the inauguration.

Will Mnangagwa slide back into the sins and failures of his predecessor, sins and failures he too is accused of? Or become a leader for all of Zimbabwe and not just the narrow interests of a ruling party?

A young Robert Mugabe is featured in one of the murals at Heroes Acre, Zimbabwe's national cemetery and monument in Harare, Zimbabwe. (Richard Devey/CBC)

'The Zanu-PF train will roll on'

There are plenty of skeptics.

When Mnangagwa returned to Eden on Wednesday, he told Zanu-PF supporters cheering him on outside the ruling party headquarters in Harare that "no one is more important than the other. We are all Zimbabweans."

But when he finished his speech, switching from English to Shona, he told the cheering crowds: "The dogs will continue to bark, but the Zanu-PF train will roll on."

That's widely seen as a warning to any lingering opponents he may have within the ruling party. But it also left a bad — and even ominous — feeling with those who don't support Zanu-PF.

"It is very dangerous what he said," our driver told us the next day, shaking his head "because he talks only of Zanu-PF when all of Zimbabwe is trying to lift him up."

And he may well need all of Zimbabwe to pull this country out of its hole. Only one in 10 people are regularly employed.

Very few Zimbabweans, for instance, can afford to visit those lonely liberation heroes up on the hill. It costs $3 US to enter and many people live on less than that a day.

It makes the cemetery and national monument feel all the more remote and untouchable for ordinary people, even though it is devoted to such an important period in the history of the country, a young Mugabe featured in one of the murals.

Centred around a golden statue of three freedom fighters, including a woman, the monument looks a little like it has been beamed in from another universe.

In a way it was, designed by a North Korean firm to echo a monument there.

Single mother Sandra believes Zimbabwe will get better under the new leader. (Lily Martin/CBC)

Peace, jobs and investment: the priorities

Down in the city below, crews of female street cleaners say they haven't been paid their salaries in months, a common complaint in the public sector. Promised bonuses haven't materialized for two years running.

"I think maybe this Zimbabwe it's going to get better," said Sandra, a single mother, when asked about Mnangagwa's chances and her priorities.

"The bond note must be removed immediately," she adds. "I want the U.S. dollar, not the bond."

Mugabe's government introduced bond notes a year ago when it had run out of money again. They're supposed to be of equal value to the U.S. dollar, but they're worth considerably less when people actually try to use them in shops.

It's created a thriving black market.

In his speech on Wednesday, Mnangagwa said bringing back investment and prosperity to the country would be a priority.

"We want to grow our economy. We want peace in our country. We want jobs, jobs, jobs," he roared.

The International Monetary Fund has said Mnangagwa will have to move quickly, saying government spending and foreign debt are too high.

And foreign diplomats stress the importance of confidence building measures in regaining the trust of foreign investors who might be considering a return to Zimbabwe.

A newspaper seller is pictured on the streets of downtown Harare. (Lily Martin/CBC)

'We don't want Mugabe anymore'

Mugabe's erratic economic leadership and pilfering of the public coffers to buy loyalty and to support the lavish lifestyle of his wife Grace, commonly known as the First Shopper or Gucci Grace, is at the heart of the rage that occasionally bursts forth when people here talk about Mugabe.

"They're splashing money all over," a man shouted out his window during the anti-Mugabe march before the 93-year-old resigned in a letter to the speaker of the Parliament — the same day the impeachment process started.

"Wearing 60,000 gold watches, drinking 5,000 champagnes," he continued. "While we're suffering on the street …  we don't want Mugabe anymore, now f--king go!"

Media reports that Mugabe has been granted asylum and would like to stay in Zimbabwe "writing his memoirs" have fuelled that rage.

He and his wife own several properties in Zimbabwe as well as in South Africa and Malaysia.

Billboards of the former president have been torn down around town by angry citizens along with portraits of Mugabe hanging in some hotels and government offices.

And there have been reports of attacks on members of the so-called G40, the group of Zanu-PF members who backed Grace Mugabe's political ambitions against those of Mnangagwa.

Robert Mugabe's first wife Sally is buried at Heroes Acre where two adjacent plots sit empty, presumably one for Mugabe and the other for his second wife, Grace. (Richard Devey/CBC)

Will Heroes Acre want Mugabe?

On Thursday, before his inauguration, Mnangagwa issued a statement urging all Zimbabwean's to "desist from any form of vengeful retribution."

Some Zanu-PF members loyal to Robert Mugabe — or at least sympathetic, saying he has been controlled by his wife — still hope to find a way of protecting Mugabe's legacy as a liberation hero not just in Zimbabwe but the rest of Africa.

Others would like to see him prosecuted for crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the slaughter of political opponents in Matabeleland in the 1980s.

And few would countenance the prospect of Grace, the object of so much hatred here, living happily ever after in wealthy homes paid for from public finances.

One of the most popular slogans emblazoned across placards during last Saturday's unprecedented march urging Mugabe to stand down stated: He Must Go and Rest!

Some carried images of him falling asleep on the job. But others are directed at an old man who they simply say has overstayed his welcome after 37 years.

Given the roiling emotions of the past week and the apparent willingness of Zanu-PF MPs to turn on, and impeach, Mugabe before he resigned, it's not clear that he will find a place along Heroes Acre when the time comes.

His first wife Sally is buried at the monument, with two empty plots beside hers, presumably one for Mugabe and one for Grace, his second wife.

History, no doubt, will be the final judge of Mugabe's legacy. Whether Zanu-PF will keep its role as gatekeeper to an empty monument, is a matter for the days ahead.

About the Author

Margaret Evans

Europe correspondent

Margaret Evans is a correspondent based in the CBC News London bureau. A veteran conflict reporter, Evans has covered civil wars and strife in Angola, Chad and Sudan, as well as the myriad battlefields of the Middle East.