Fugi­tive Mu­gabe ri­val faces threat of trea­son charge

The Sunday Telegraph - - World News - By

Peta Thorny­croft and Roland Oliphant

PO­LICE in Zim­babwe may bring trea­son, fraud, and mur­der charges against a sacked vice-pres­i­dent who has vowed to chal­lenge the grip of Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe’s fam­ily’s on power.

Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa, who for nearly 40 years served as Mr Mu­gabe’s right-hand man un­til he lost a bit­ter power strug­gle with First Lady Grace Mu­gabe, fled Zim­babwe last Tues­day af­ter the 93-year-old dic­ta­tor fired him for “un­re­li­a­bil­ity” and al­legedly plot­ting a coup more than 30 years ago.

The Sun­day Tele­graph un­der­stands that Mr Mnan­gagwa is now in South Africa, where he is at­tempt­ing to muster sup­port to chal­lenge Mr Mu­gabe at pres­i­den­tial elec­tions next year.

It is un­clear whether he will be able to mount a se­ri­ous chal­lenge to Mrs Mu­gabe from abroad, how­ever.

His shock re­moval fol­lows a bit­ter pub­lic feud with Mrs Mu­gabe over the suc­ces­sion when the in­creas­ingly frail pres­i­dent dies or re­tires, and has sparked fears of a po­ten­tially vi­o­lent purge as she moves to con­sol­i­date her con­trol over the rul­ing Zanu-PF party and, with it, the coun­try.

Mr Mnan­gagwa cleared his desk early on Mon­day morn­ing af­ter re­fus­ing a sum­mons to meet Mr Mu­gabe at his pala­tial res­i­dence.

Friends and col­leagues told The Tele­graph that he ten­dered his res­ig­na­tion hours be­fore the gov­ern­ment an­nounced that he had been fired.

Mr Mnan­gagwa then fled to Mozam­bique by car af­ter the po­lice and army pro­tec­tion teams had been with­drawn from his Harare home.

The po­ten­tial trea­son charges are linked to an an­gry, con­dem­na­tory state­ment which the 75-year-old re­leased as he fled into ex­ile.

“It is be­ing care­fully ex­am­ined and ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse and ac­tion will be made af­ter­wards,” Si­mon Khaya Moyo, the in­for­ma­tion min­is­ter, told jour­nal­ists in Harare when asked about the state­ment.

Sev­eral lawyers in Harare told The Tele­graph that there are lines in Mr Mnan­gagwa’s five-page state­ment that could con­sti­tute trea­son. They in- clude: “I leave this post, for now. I en­cour­age all loyal mem­bers of the party to re­main in the party to reg­is­ter to vote as we will very soon con­trol the levers of power in our beau­ti­ful party and coun­try.”

“You (Mu­gabe) and your co­horts will in­stead leave Zanu-PF by the will of the peo­ple and this we will do in the com­ing weeks,” the state­ment goes on.

“Zim­bab­weans in gen­eral now re­quire new pro­gres­sive lead­er­ship that is not res­i­dent in the past and re­fuses to ac­cept change.”

Al­most ev­ery ma­jor po­lit­i­cal leader in Zim­babwe has been charged with trea­son by Mr Mu­gabe since the coun­try’s in­de­pen­dence in 1980.

Sep­a­rately, po­lice said they are in­ves­ti­gat­ing Mr Manan­gagwa in con­nec­tion with four mur­ders, as well as po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence in con­nec­tion with il­le­gal gold pan­ning in and around Mr Mnan­gagwa’s home district, Kwekwe, in cen­tral Zim­babwe.

One of the cases in­volves the at­tempted mur­der of God­frey Ma­jonga, a for­mer state broad­caster, who was left paral­ysed and never walked again af­ter a bru­tal as­sault 30 years ago.

De­tec­tives are also be­lieved to be look­ing into at least two mur­ders, which are al­ready in the courts, in con­nec­tion with vi­o­lence and in­tim­i­da­tion in the highly com­pet­i­tive and dan­ger­ous in­for­mal gold min­ing sec­tor in cen­tral Zim­babwe.

Mr Mnan­gagwa has been im­pli­cated in a se­ries of hu­man-rights abuses in his decades by Mu­gabe’s side in­clud­ing mas­sacres of thou­sands of peo­ple in Mata­bele­land in the Eight­ies and dur­ing Zim­babwe’s in­ter­ven­tion in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo.

How­ever, he has been widely seen as a rel­a­tively com­pe­tent and lev­el­headed fig­ure in­side Zanu-PF and was tipped as the pre­ferred suc­ces­sion can­di­date of both Zim­bab­wean busi­ness­men and po­ten­tial for­eign in­vestors.

“We are very shocked at what has hap­pened to Mnan­gagwa. He was the one per­son within Zanu-PF [who] we be­lieved had the sense to know how to fix the econ­omy,” said a Harare busi­ness­man, who asked not to be named.

“Don’t get me wrong, Zanu is bad news,” said Sally Mut­seyami, an ex­iled op­po­si­tion ac­tivist in Lon­don. “But some are worse than oth­ers. Frankly, I think he would have been the bet­ter choice. It is a pity.”

Mor­gan Ts­van­gi­rai, the leader of the op­po­si­tion Move­ment for Demo­cratic Change (who was also once charged with trea­son), de­scribed the “dra­matic” move as a threat to Zim­babwe’s na­tional se­cu­rity. “It’s one thing to dis­miss the vice-pres­i­dent, but it’s an­other when it af­fects the sta­bil­ity of the coun­try,” he said in a state­ment is­sued from Jo­han­nes­burg, where he is re­cov­er­ing from treat­ment for can­cer.

Obert Gutu, a spokesman for the MDC, said the party was “al­ways will­ing and able to col­lab­o­rate with all gen­uine Zim­bab­wean pa­tri­ots”, but there had been no for­mal dis­cus­sions with Mr Mnan­gagwa.

‘It’s one thing to dis­miss the vice-pres­i­dent, but it’s an­other when it af­fects the sta­bil­ity of the coun­try’

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