Harare, Zimbabwe | AFP | Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe on Monday stripped one of the top candidates to succeed him of a cabinet post, as the battle to replace the long-ruling leader intensifies.
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who also doubled as minister of justice, was replaced as minister by ruling ZANU-PF party loyalist Happyton Bonyongwe. Mnangagwa will stay on as one of Mugabe’s two vice presidents.
Mugabe, 93, has tried to enforce strict discipline in his ruling ZANU-PF party for decades and avoided naming a successor even as concerns have grown over his advanced age and failing health.
But the shake-up comes as infighting deepens in the ZANU-PF over who will take over from Mugabe, including allegations from Mnangagwa he was poisoned.
Mnangagwa’s supporters allege he was struck down by poison-laced ice cream produced on a farm owned by first lady Grace Mugabe, who is also seen as harbouring ambitions to take over from her ageing husband.
President Mugabe has reshuffled the cabinet pic.twitter.com/erDBGjAm8g
— The Herald Zimbabwe (@HeraldZimbabwe) October 9, 2017
Grace has publicly called on her husband to name a successor, ratcheting up tensions with Mnangagwa, a regime loyalist who has been widely tipped to succeed Mugabe.
But the open warfare between Grace and Mnangagwa has apparently left Mugabe furious.
Mugabe has repeatedly condemned factionalism within the party in thinly veiled rebukes to Mnangagwa and his wife’s public posturing.
Mnangagwa’s replacement as justice minister, Bonyongwe, is a retired army major general, who was the director general of the country’s feared intelligence service.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, who has been tasked with reviving the country’s ailing economy, was replaced by Ignatius Chombo, who was home affairs minister
At the weekend, Mugabe had already warned that some ministers will be axed in a shake-up of his cabinet amid deepening infighting in his Zanu-PF party over who succeeds him.
“I do my own review to assess who have not pulled up or lived up to expectations in government. In the process some will fall,” he told youth league members at a meeting at the party’s headquarters.
“So, that exercise I will be doing early next week.”
The president last reshuffled his cabinet in 2015 after firing allies of former vice president Joice Mujuru, who was dismissed over allegations of plotting to unseat him. Mujuru denied the charges.
His party has endorsed him as its presidential candidate to face a coalition of opposition parties in general elections next year. Mugabe also called for unity and an end to public squabbles over his succession.
“If there are problems, let’s discuss them,” he said as his wife and both deputies sat flanking him.
“Insulting each other is a shame.”