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Mugabe Appoints Mnangagwa, Mphoko New Vice Presidents

President Robert Mugabe and his two deputies, Phelekezela Mphoko (L) and Emmerson Mnangagwa (R). Collage by Ntungamili Nkomo

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday picked Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and career diplomat Phelekezela Mphoko as his two deputies in Zanu PF, which automatically makes them vice presidents of the country.

The elevation of Mnangagwa was widely anticipated and is viewed as a way by Mr. Mugabe of readying the ambitious minister to succeed him when he leaves office.

Mr. Mugabe also announced a new Politburo lineup featuring Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo as secretary for administration while Simon Khaya Moyo - who was also seen as a contender for the deputy presidency - was named party secretary for information.

"There are two vice-presidents. From the former Zanu we have Emmerson Mnangagwa," Mr. Mugabe said to ululations and celebrations. "We say congratulations to him. From the former ZAPU we have Phelekezela Mphoko,” said Mugabe.

Unexpectedly, Mr. Mugabe scrapped the post of chairman that Khaya Moyo held.

Information Minister Jonathan Moyo is the new secretary for science and technology and Minister Obert Mpofu was given the secretary for finance.

Mugabe said: "We are reducing that top heaviness in the party. We will be having the two vice presidents. The two vice presidents have no real party function except that they are my deputies. I can give them work to do."

Oppah Muchinguri, who played a major role in the destruction of former vice president Joice Mujuru, was given the transport and social welfare portfolio. First Lady Grace Mugabe leads the women affairs cluster

President Mugabe said his two deputies will be sworn in together with Cabinet ministers Friday.

For perspective VOA Studio 7 reached political lecturer at England’s Huddersfield University, Nkululeko Sibanda.

Sibanda said Mr. Mugabe could have shot himself in the foot by appointing Mr. Mnangagwa as possibly his heir apparent.

"For me it indicates a certain level of, in my view, inability on the part of the president to understand the politics of succession that because he never really thought about it, to surround himself with two guys; one who is well-known and popular and the other is a shadowy figure."

"It is certainly in my view, not a feasible position unless he wants to make himself a regent president or what you would call a dark horse. I think the lineup is not helpful for him as he goes forward if he wants to continue being a leader of the party and the government."

Women’s activist, Gladys Hlatswayo, told VOA Studio 7’s Sandra Nyaira that Mr. Mugabe’s appointments undid the progress Zimbabwe had made in empowering women.

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Mnangagwa has been fighting for the control of the party against a rival faction said to be led by the deposed Mrs. Mujuru.

Secretaries of various Politburo portfolios also appointed by Mr. Mugabe are as follows: External Affairs - Simbabrashe Mumbengegwi, National Security - Kembo Mohadi, Legal Affairs - Patrick Chinamasa, Implementation-Economic Empowerment Policy - Mike Bimha, Production and Labour - Josiah Hungwe and Health, Child Welfare and Elderly - Cleveria Chizema.

Others are Christopher Mushohwe (Economic Affairs), Women's Affairs - Grace Mugabe, Youth Affairs - Pupurai Togarepi, Education - Joram McDonald Gumbo, Gender and Culture - Thokozile Mathuthu, the Disabled - Joshua Malinga, Land Reform and Resettlement - Cain Mathema, Science and Technology - Jonathan Moyo, Business Development - Sithembiso Nyoni, Environment and Tourism - Prisca Mupfumira and War Veterans - Sydney Sekeramayi.

The appointees are expected to take corresponding state positions when the president makes a cabinet reshufle expected sometime this week.