Zimbabwe on Monday witnessed the dismissal of yet another vice president, once regarded as a strong successor to President Robert Mugabe.
Emmerson Mnangagwa follows in the footsteps of his predecessor, Joice Mujuru, who was similarly dismissed in 2014.
Mnangagwa has been embroiled in allegations of factionalism and disloyalty. Information Minister Simon Khaya Moyo delivered the news of his dismissal, to the media.
“His Excellency the President, R.G. Mugabe has exercised his powers to relieve honorable Vice President, E.D. Mnangagwa, of his position as vice president of the Republic of Zimbabwe, with immediate effect.
Khaya Moyo cited “traits of disloyalty, disrespect and deceitfulness,” among the reasons for Mnangagwa’s dismissal. Until recently, Mnangagwa had been considered a leading candidate to succeed President Mugabe once he leaves office.
Mnangagwa’s journey to his dismissal closely resembles that of his predecessor, Joice Mujuru, who was dogged by rumors of corruption and plotting to overthrow the government, before being publicly called upon by First Lady Grace Mugabe to step down or face dismissal.
Indications of Mnangagwa’s pending dismissal became evident over the weekend, when President Mugabe, while addressing party supporters at a Presidential Youth Interface Rally in Bulawayo, angrily questioned if he had failed in picking Mnangagwa as vice president and declared he’d drop him, if that turned out to be the case.
At the same rally, Mrs. Mugabe cranked up the pressure on Mr. Mnangagwa, accusing him of organizing people to boo her while she addressed a rally, and a day later, labelling him a “liquidator,” who has had an eye on her husband’s seat since independence, in 1980.
"In 1980 Mnangagwa tried to topple the president through a coup … I'm speaking from my previous position, I have the evidence, he actually tried to wrestle power from the president. He has actually taken the president for granted for too long. For too long. The president is a very patient man."
Many anticipated that Mnangagwa’s ouster would come at the party’s hastily-called Extraordinary Congress in December, so news of Mnangagwa’s dismissal Monday, caught many by surprise.
Constitutional experts said the move was legal because vice presidents in Zimbabwe are appointed by the president, not elected as running mates.
Lovemore Madhuku, who is a constitutional lawyer and leader of the opposition, National Constitutional Assembly, said, “From the time they organized their [party] constitution, they chose one center of power. Whatever Mugabe does is what works. So there is no need for a meeting. Mugabe simply does whatever he wants in that party."
President Mugabe’s lawyer, Terence Hussein, noted that “in government you sit at the pleasure of the president, the vice presidents. Remember these are the first vice presidents in terms of the constitution, they are not the second vice presidents. After the next election, the presidents are going to direct elections, they will be elected by the people. But these vice presidents were appointed. And because they were appointed, they can as the president wishes, be disappointed.”
With Mnangagwa now out of the way, many question who will replace the 75-year-old former intelligence chief. Many believe the seat will go to Mrs. Mugabe following a push from the Women’s League that she heads, to amend the constitution to allow for a woman in the presidium. Several Zanu-PF groups, including the women and youth, have already backed Mrs. Mugabe.
But political analyst, Professor Siphamandla Zondi, says this could backfire for the party.
"The appointment of Grace Mugabe might unite the forces that are militating against the current, the G40 for example and it might unite Mnangagwa with Joyce Mujuru, with Chris Mutsvangwa, with the war veterans and all the forces that are influential for a long time in Zanu-PF, now will exist from outside Zanu-PF and challenge Zanu-PF from outside.”
Mnangagwa, nicknamed 'Ngwena' (Crocodile), has seen his political stock plummet in the last few months, on accusations by party rivals that he was plotting to get Mugabe to step down in his favor. He denies the accusation.