And now he is about to get his wish.
For years Mr Mugabe seemed to toy with his emotions – one day promoting him to senior positions in both the ruling Zanu-PF party and the government, raising speculation that Mr Mnangagwa was the “heir apparent”, but later demoting him after he possibly displayed his ambitions a bit too openly.
But after his sacking, it seemed as though the patience of the man known as “the crocodile” finally snapped.
When Mr Mugabe dismissed him and publicly accused him of “treachery”, his supporters in the security forces – where he made his name – intervened on his behalf.
But anyone hoping that a Mnangagwa presidency would see an end to human rights abuses in Zimbabwe could be mistaken. His critics say the 71-year-old has blood on his hands.
Who is Emmerson Mnangagwa?
- Known as “the crocodile” because of his political shrewdness – his Zanu-PF faction is “Lacoste”
- Received military training in China and Egypt
- Tortured by Rhodesian forces after his “crocodile gang” staged attacks
- Helped direct Zimbabwe’s 1970s war of independence
- Became the country’s spymaster during the 1980s civil conflict, in which thousands of civilians were killed, but has denied any role in the massacres, blaming the army
- Seen as key link between army, intelligence agencies and Zanu-PF party
- Accused of masterminding attacks on opposition supporters after 2008 election