President Robert Mugabe has clipped Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s wings by taking away the justice ministry from him and removing some of his lieutenants from powerful ministerial positions, in a move widely seen as a way of entrenching his wife’s Generation 40 (G40) faction of the ruling Zanu PF party in government and party structures amid a bitter succession battle.
As expected, Mnangagwa survived the chop after a fall out with Mugabe’s wife, Grace, over the suspected poisoning of the vice president in Gwanda, Matabeleland South province, while attending a recent Zanu PF Youth League Interface Rally. President Mugabe removed Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa from his post and replaced him with former Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo.
He also appointed loyalists Obert Mpofu to the Ministry of Home Affairs and retired Major General and spy agency chief, Hapton Bonyongwe, to the Ministry of Justice, previously held by Mnangagwa.
Most of the appointees are aligned to Mrs. Mugabe’s Zanu PF faction, which wants her to succeed Zimbabwe’s 93 year-old ruler.
VOA Studio 7 Livetalk hosts, Gibbs Dube and Blessing Zulu, spoke to Douglas Mahiya, spokesperson of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association, which wants Mnangagwa to succeed Mr. Mugabe.
Mahiya said, “I don’t know why we are reshuffling the Cabinet at the moment. What it means is that there are set objectives that have to be met before the 2018 general elections … The interests (of Mugabe and others) are that of suppressing the masses of Zimbabwe.”
He said the President has responded positively to his wife’s request for a clear line of Mr. Mugabe’s succession.
“(It is clearly calculated at the) Removal of all those that are sympathetic to the revolution of Zimbabwe, not an individual but to the principles of the revolution of Zimbabwe because the revolution was all about delivering independence, freedom of speech, economic emancipation and any other freedom that is necessary to the people.”
He said Cabinet ministers like Labor Minister Prisca Mupfumira and others who have been either dropped or re-appointed to what he termed as insignificant posts appeared to have been challenging the status quo.
“In a dictatorship you don’t ask any questions. If you are asked to jump you don’t ask why, you must only ask high you are supposed to jump. We must also be aware that we are creating a (political) dynasty (Mugabes) and in a dynasty a subject does not have authority, does not have responsibility, does not have freedom and this is what is happening (in Zimbabwe).
“… All those people who ask why (they are asked to do anything by the president) must be removed from Cabinet and also be removed from any influential position in government and even in parastatals … And I can assure you that their next step will be to try and extend this arm to the national army because the people who are the top in the army are revolutionaries, are people who fought in the liberation struggle.”
Mahiya further said it is not surprising that War Veterans Minister Tshinga Dube, who once made remarks that he has the right to discuss succession in Zanu PF and appeared to be backing Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe, was relieved of his duties in the Cabinet reshuffle.
“Dube was aligned to war veterans and could understand them. That did not please the president. His replacement Cain Matema who is junior to Dube will be dancing to the tune of G40 (a Zanu PF faction said to be led by Mrs. Mugabe).
He said it was just a matter of time before Mnangagwa is removed from the post of vice president “after weakening him ahead of the 2018 People’s Conference and general elections.”
Mahiya said, “They are simply delaying for the sake of stabilizing the party ahead of the 2018 general elections and thereafter they will take action against Mnangagwa whether he resigns or does not resign. They will use him since he appears to have some supporters and then ditch him when time comes.”
In the latest Cabinet reshuffle, former Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi is the new Foreign Affairs Minister and his post has been re-assigned to Edgar Nyasha Mbwembwe, a Member of Parliament for Chikomba East constituency.
Simon Khaya Moyo has replaced Media and Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Chris Mushowe, who is now a Minister of State in the Office of the President in charge of scholarships.
Mugabe’s nephew, Patrick Zhuwao, has replaced Prisca Mupfumira in the Ministry of Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare.
Webster Shamu, who was sacked after he was accused of being too close to dumped former Vice President Joice Mujuru, has bounced back into the Cabinet as Minister of State for Mashonaland West province.
Several people, believed to be staunch supporters of Mrs. Mugabe and Generation 40, were also appointed to some ministerial posts.
G40 and another faction called Team Lacoste said to be backing Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe are fighting for the control of the ruling party.