Mugabe’s sacking of deputy raises prospect of Zimbabwe dynasty
President’s wife likely to lead country next as opposition figures court ‘crocodile’
Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace Mubage, with Emmerson Mnangagwa – whom Mr Mugabe has dismissed as vice president – at a gathering of the Zanu-PF party’s politburo in Harare on February 10th, 2016. Photograph: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters
Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s decision to fire one of his two deputies on Monday has significantly increased the likelihood of a Mugabe family dynasty being established in the south African nation.
A front-runner to become the next leader of the ruling Zanu-PF party, Emmerson Mnangagwa was dismissed from his position as Zimbabwe’s vice president for displaying “traits of disloyalty, disrespect, deceitfulness and unreliability”.
Information minister Simon Khaya-Moyo told reporters the president had sacked Mr Mnangagwa because “it had become evident that his conduct in the discharge of his duties had become inconsistent with his official responsibilities”.
The axing of the Zanu-PF hardliner, who has strong links with the military and intelligence services, came after a dramatic weekend in which Mr Mugabe’s wife, Grace, publicly stated she was ready to succeed her husband as president if asked to do so.
Monday’s development did not come as a surprise to analysts who follow the country’s internal power struggles, as tensions between Mr Mnangagwa (75) and Ms Mugabe (53) have escalated over the last year.
They are seen as the leaders of the two main factions in Zanu-PF vying to take over from the ageing Mr Mugabe (93) when he dies or leaves office.
Since her rise to political prominence in 2014, as leader of the Zanu-PF women’s league, Ms Mugabe has openly involved herself in the party’s succession battle by attacking those she suspects of holding ambitions to lead the movement.
In recent months she has relentlessly attacked Mr Mnangagwa, who has worked closely with Mr Mugabe for 40 years. Last month Ms Mugabe suggested his supporters were planning to stage a coup against her husband.
In what was a sign of things to come, Mr Mnangagwa was fired as the country’s justice minister, a position he held in tandem with his role as vice president, in a cabinet reshuffle in October.
Ms Mugabe had also claimed Mr Mnangagwa’s predecessor as vice president, Joice Mujuru – who was axed under similar circumstances in 2014 – was trying to remove her husband from power.
Known as “the crocodile” due to his ruthlessness, for a long time after his appointment in 2014 Mr Mnangagwa was seen as the favourite to take over from Mr Mugabe because of their long-standing relationship.
However, Mr Mugabe steadfastly refused to publicly anoint a successor and the emergence of his wife as a political force marked a turning point for Mr Mnangagwa’s standing with the president.
Mr Mnangagwa’s removal should in theory make it easier for Ms Mugabe to take over from her husband when the time comes. She is expected to be announced as the country’s new vice president at a special Zanu-PF congress scheduled for next month.
Zimbabwe’s other vice president, Phelekezela Mphoko, is not viewed as a threat to her ambitions.
Mr Mnangagwa has yet to publicly respond to his sacking, and at this stage he is still a member of the the Zanu PF politburo, the party’s central decision-making body.
However, some opposition parties have called on Mr Mnangagwa to join their ranks. Widely seen as Zanu-PF’s chief election strategist in past general elections, his knowledge of how the ruling party has managed to stay in power since 1980 would be invaluable to those seeking to remove it via the ballot box.
Mr Mnangagwa is also suspected of working with Ms Mugabe in 2014 to get rid of Ms Mujuru. Despite this, on Tuesday Ms Mujuru called on him to join her in opposition politics.
“It is time to redeem yourself and walk out of this falling dynasty‚” she said in a statement. “Together we can build another great Zimbabwe not driven by love for power and money.”
The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change party has also indicated it could work with him if he renounced his past allegiances .