Mugabe grip tested by the sacking of VP
It will be difficult for Mnangagwa to reinvent himself for he played a key role in the violence occasioned on opposition leaders and supporters
Analysts say ascendancy of Grace to leadership signals end of ruling party
President Robert Mugabe has exerted almost total authority over Zimbabwean politics for decades — but the dismissal of his most senior long-time confidante could spark repercussions beyond his control.
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was fired and humiliated on Monday after clashing with Mugabe’s wife Grace, who is now in prime position to succeed the aging leader.
The removal of Mnangagwa, who has powerful military connections, has laid bare the rivalries inside Zimbabwe’s political establishment as Mugabe, 93, shows increasing signs of old age.
“The situation reflects an enormous amount of unpredictability. We are moving into unchartered territories,” said Piers Pigou of the International Crisis Group.
“It appears Mugabe is prepared to surgically remove significant sections of the party’s historical support base to try to consolidate his own position and the future leadership.”
Mnangagwa, 75, fled into exile, but vowed to return and launched a direct challenge to Mugabe by calling for members of the ruling Zanu-pf to desert the president.
Mugabe reacted by expelling him from the party, which will hold its annual congress next month when Grace — a hugely divisive figure — could be appointed as one of the country’s two vice presidents.
“The ball is in Mnangagwa’s court, but what are you going to do outside the party?” Pigou said.
“The biggest question is what kind of elevation do we see for Grace.”
The potential leadership role for Grace, who has many opponents within the party and government, could even threaten the future of Zanu-pf.
“This is the beginning of the end of Zanu-pf. It is a total destruction of Mugabe’s legacy,” independent analyst Dewa Mavhinga said.
“If Grace ascends to the top, she will fall because she has created very many enemies. She has been reckless. Zanu-pf could be destroyed from within.”
Mnangagwa’s next move is uncertain, but any path back to high office seems beset with obstacles.
“It will be very difficult for him reinvent himself as a democrat because he is cut from the same cloth as Mugabe,” said Mavhinga.
Mnangagwa was instrumental in much past election violence, including the 2008 presidential runoff when opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out due to a wave of killings and beatings.
And as security minister in the 1980s, Mnangagwa played a leading role in the Gukurahundi massacres that claimed the lives of around 20,000 perceived dissidents in the southwest of the country.
Mnangagwa issued a defiant statement on Wednesday, telling Mugabe that Zanu-pf was “not personal property for you and your wife to do as you please”.
The next flashpoint could be next week when Mnangagwa supporters plan to stage protests against Mugabe in Harare.
Zimbabwe’s ruthless security forces have often violently broken up street demonstrations against the authoritarian president.
But some experts believe the turmoil may actually allow Mugabe — the world’s oldest national leader — to strengthen the extraordinary hold on power he has maintained since 1980.
While the country’s economy collapsed long ago, Mugabe’s presence only seems to grow.
On Thursday, Harare Airport was renamed Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in his honour.
The president’s birthday was also recently declared a public holiday, while a $1billion Robert Mugabe university is being planned.
“He has fired senior party officials for decades and has continued in a ‘life-as-usual’ mode,” Eldred Masunungure, a political scientist from the University of Zimbabwe, said. (AFP)
It appears Mugabe is prepared to surgically remove significant sections of the party’s historical support base to try to consolidate his own position” Piers Pigou
President Mugabe unveils a plaque at the country’s main international airport in Harare on Wednesday. The airport was renamed after him.