June 18, 2018 / 3:14 PM / 4 months ago

With eye on election, Zimbabwe's president queues for fried chicken

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa queued with punters to buy fried chicken this weekend, state media reported on Monday, setting out the former security chief’s ‘everyman’ credentials a month ahead of an election.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa announces the date for the general elections in Harare, Zimbabwe May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

In scenes unthinkable last year under former leader Robert Mugabe, Mnangagwa’s convoy made an unscheduled stop on Sunday at a fast food outlet in the small town of Chegutu, 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of the capital Harare.

“He ordered a two-piecer and a minute maid (juice), paid $3.75 with $20 and told me to keep the change,” said Isabel Mtongerwa, the cashier who served Mnangagwa.

“He is very welcoming and makes you feel comfortable in his presence.”

Mnangagwa is working hard to shed his image as Mugabe’s enforcer, engaging the public on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, something Mugabe frowned upon.

Prior to coming to power last November when Mugabe was forced to resign following a de facto military coup, Mnangagwa was secretive and insular, preferring to operate under the radar, and was known by the monicker ‘Ngwena’, a Shona word which means ‘Crocodile’.

Twenty three candidates have registered to contest the presidential election on July 30 but Mnangagwa and 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, are the main contenders.

Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Joe Brock and Susan Fenton

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