Former Zimbabwe Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s political legacy took another hit Wednesday, when the party expelled him, amid allegations that the former justice minister had left the country for South Africa.
In a space of just one month, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s once highly regarded politician and purported successor to President Robert Mugabe, lost his ministerial post as Justice Minister, his position as vice president, and now, membership in the revolutionary Zanu-PF party.
According to the state broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, Zimbabwe Information Minister Simon Khaya Moyo announced Mnangagwa’s expulsion and the pending expulsions of “all members identified as with Cde Mnangagwa in his secessionist agenda.”
The decision by the politburo, Zanu-PF’s highest decision-making body outside Congress, follows further warning by President Mugabe to anyone trying to undercut him.
“There is no shortcut to being the leader of the people."
Mnangagwa, who has stayed out of the public view since the announcement, has reportedly left for South Africa, with reports varying from him experiencing health issues after the expulsion to hiding in fear of his life.
Human rights lawyer Irene Petras says it’s plausible that Mnangagwa, who has been accused of human rights violations during his tenure in government, may be in fear of his life.
“He knows what the party is capable of, what people who do not support him can do, it’s something that we have seen as civil society, which opposition politicians have seen if you seem to be going against the status quo, there is always a danger.”
Expulsions and suspensions of Zanu-PF members suspected to be disloyal to President Mugabe or his party have been happening over the years, and has seen some of the founding members like Mnangagwa and his predecessor Joice Mujuru lose their positions and livelihoods.
Many of the country’s veterans who fought to bring independence to the country, have also been expelled from the party, amid accusations of siding with Mujuru or Mnangagwa.
But spokesperson Victor Matemadanda of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association, who is among those expelled, said he and his fellow veterans are now pushing for President Mugabe’s expulsion from the party.
“We have realized that Mugabe is firing, expelling, suspending, firing a lot of revolutionary people when in actual fact it is him who is retrogressive and we decided that we should fire him the way we did Ndabaningi Sithole.”
Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole is the late founder of the Zimbabwe African National Union or Zanu who was ousted from the party and replaced by Mugabe, who was then his secretary general, over allegations of colluding with the British.
A once loyal supporter of President Mugabe and Zanu-PF, Matemandada says Mugabe is equally guilty.
“Remember Mugabe is always accusing others of being agents of the west – agents of the British, the Americans and so forth, but people should not forget that Mugabe himself is a British Knight – how did he get the knighthood if he did not win crucial and critical battles for the queen. If you look at his training, he never even went to training for a single day.”
Britain stripped Mugabe of his Knighthood in 2008.
Zimbabwe First Lady Grace Mugabe has played a key role in facilitating the expulsions within the party, claiming support for her husband and the party’s legacy.
"He is also my president, I love my president, I respect my president, I will help him to make this country prosper."
Analysts pin much of the reverberation within Zanu-PF to Mrs. Mugabe, who has expressed interest in running the country, claiming it’s her right as a Zimbabwean. Analyst Joy Mabenge of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, says that scenario is very possible.
“Clearly now it shows you that the scheming within Zanu PF is now pointing toward the first lady joining the presidium. 5:06 the first lady also being in the succession matrix but that does not necessarily mean that the game is over yet. I think more is yet to come.”
But political analyst Nkululeko Sibanda, who is based at Huddersfield University in the United Kindgom, says Mrs. Mugabe is simply securing her own future by making herself relevant.
“When she started her campaign again Joyce Mujuru it was an existential issue, it was about her realizing that as soon as Mugabe is out of the picture her and her family are going to be answering for some of the problem that Mugabe is accused of. And that if she doesn’t take over herself then she may have to rely on somebody else protecting her and her family. And apparently she found out that she had no choice, absolutely no choice but to try and take over herself.”
Human rights lawyer Irene Petras says while the infighting in Zanu-PF has captured the world’s attention, the more critical decay is that of the suffering of the people, which is likely to get worse.
“I don’t think most Zimbabweans are concerned about who the vice president is going to be. They are concerned about the instability, they are concerned about the fact that they can’t get money out, they are concerned about the fact that they can’t register to vote, they are concerned about how the elections are going to take place, when the electoral commission is not as professional as it should be so these are some of the issues which are affecting us and the longer and the more time that people spend speculating about things which are internal to a party which itself seems to be crumbling, none of these key issues which affect people’s lives are being addressed.”
With Mnangagwa, Mujuru and many of the party’s founding members now out in the cold, many wonder whether they will come together as a party to challenge President Mugabe in the 2018 elections.