Opposition to Mugabe hardens after sacking of Zimbabwean deputy

Former ally Emmerson Mnangagwa says he fled country due to ‘incessant threats’

  Zimbabwe’s former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa: It is  believed that  tensions between Mr Mnangagwa and Mr Mugabe’s wife, Grace, around who will succeed the Zimbabwean president were behind his  removal from office. Photograph: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images

Zimbabwe’s former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa: It is believed that tensions between Mr Mnangagwa and Mr Mugabe’s wife, Grace, around who will succeed the Zimbabwean president were behind his removal from office. Photograph: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images

 

Opposition to Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe appears to growing following his decision to sack a former close ally who was forced to leave the country over fears for his life.

Former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa had not been seen or heard from since Mr Mugabe sacked him on Monday, but on Wednesday evening he released a statement saying he had fled after receiving “incessant threats”.

Mr Mnangagwa was fired after being accused of plotting to take power from his former mentor, a charge he has denied. Until his removal he was considered a front-runner to succeed 93-year-old Mr Mugabe.

Known as “the crocodile” for his ruthlessness, Mr Mnangagwa said he had been “vilified beyond measure” and was being “hounded by minnows who have no liberation credentials”. However, he vowed to return to the southern African country to lead the nation.

Allies of Mr Mnangagwa’s said on Wednesday he was in a “safe place” and that he would arrive in South Africa later this week, where they would seek assistance from the Zimbabwean diaspora across the region.

Mr Mnangagwa (75) had worked closely with Mr Mugabe for 40 years up until his removal. He was believed to be the ruling Zanu-PF party’s main election strategist over the past decade and was appointed one of Mr Mugabe’s two deputies in 2014.

It is widely believed that rising tensions between Mr Mnangagwa and Mr Mugabe’s wife, Grace, around who will succeed the Zimbabwean president were behind his unceremonious removal from office.

Indeed many analysts believe Mr Mnangagwa’s removal was designed to pave the way for Ms Mugabe to eventually take power, creating a Mugabe family dynasty in the country.

Since Monday the first lady has been endorsed by the ruling party’s 10 provincial organs to take over from Mr Mnangagwa as vice-president, which puts her in a prime position to succeed her husband.

Possible coup

That prospect appals many Zimbabweans, and has led some observers to suggest that a coup should not be discounted given Mr Mnangagwa has close ties to the army and the country’s feared intelligence services.

On Wednesday, Zimbabwean war veterans, who were staunch allies of Mr Mugabe until recent years, said that they had cut all ties with the president because of his recent actions.

War veterans head Chris Mutsvangwa told a press conference in Johannesburg that Zimbabweans from all sections of society were coming together to oppose the Mugabe family.

“The MDC [the opposition Movement for Democratic Change], the churches, everyone has come together to address the menace that Zimbabwe now faces with Mugabe a senior old man with a mad wife,” Mr Mutsvangwa said.

He added: “They want to seize power ahead of the elections [next year], ahead of the will of the people, that’s why we are appealing to our friends in the region.”

But it appears that Mr Mugabe still has a strong grip on the upper echelons of the ruling party.

Zanu-PF spokesman Simon Khaya-Moyo said on Wednesday that following his dismissal as deputy president, the party’s central decision-making body, the politburo, had also expelled Mr Mnangagwa from the movement.