For Zimbabwe's long serving leader, Robert Mugabe, the boat has sailed.

An end to his 37-year reign was on Sunday drawn closer by his removal as ruling party Zanu-PF’s leader.

Although Mugabe’s nephew, Patrick Zhuwao, was quoted by the media as saying that the president and his wife Grace are “ready to die for what is correct” and have no intention of stepping down, it is obvious the end has come for the nonagenarian after military seized power and placed him under house arrest last week.

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He will now be replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa, his deputy that he sacked this month as he attempted to pave way for his wife, Grace Mugabe to take over from him.

Called "The Crocodile," former vice president Mnangagwa has a reputation for toughness. His sacking by Mugabe last week became the trigger for intervention by the military establishment, with which he has close ties.

Mnangagwa, nicknamed "Ngwena" (The Crocodile), has been at the heart of the crisis engulfing Zimbabwean politics, despite not being in the country at the time of the army takeover and remaining silent since.

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75-year-old Mnangagwa was a decade-long loyalist of Mugabe and a former defence minister with a career reputation as a hardliner who built close links to the army - which may well install him as the next president.

Nonetheless, his public image is badly tainted by his role as the architect of the bloody 1980s crackdown on opposition supporters that claimed thousands of lives in Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.

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