Former Zimbabwe Deputy Justice Minister Fortune Chasi, fired by President Robert Mugabe on Sunday for alleged incompetence, says he will remain a member of the ruling party and there is no bad blood between him and newly-minted Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa replaced his longtime rival, former Vice President Joice Mujuru who was fired two weeks ago by President Robert Mugabe for alleged incompetence.
Mr. Mugabe has now purged the majority of cabinet ministers who were backing Mrs. Mujuru. At the just-ended ruling Zanu-PF congress, Mr. Mugabe also fired 9 out of 10 provincial party chairpersons.
Chasi says Mr. Mnangagwa, who now doubles as justice minister, was his mentor and he treated him with respect. The fired deputy minister said, “He (Mnangagwa) has hand-handled me for years and he is a repository of institutional memory and knowledge since he is an old hand in the ministry.”
In a statement released Sunday by the president’s office, Mr. Mugabe who is currently holidaying in Asia, dismissed the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Flora Buka, and Sylvester Nguni, Minister of State in the Office of the Vice President, saying “their conduct and performance were below expected standards.”
Chief secretary to the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, said Mr. Mugabe had also relieved five deputy ministers of their duties in terms of Section 108 (1) (a) of the constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act 2013.
The other dismissed deputies are Deputy Health Minister Paul Chimedza, Deputy Public Service Minister Tongai Muzenda, Deputy Transport Minister Petronella Kagonye and Deputy Lands Minister Tendai Savanhu.
Chasi became a marked man after First Lady Grace Mugabe attacked him at a rally in August claiming that he was spreading falsehoods and other unfounded allegations aimed at tarnishing the name of the first family.
Mrs. Mugabe made the revelations to thousands of youths who had gathered at her children’s home in Mashonaland Central to endorse the Women’s League resolution requesting her to lead the organ.
She said Chasi moved around alleging that the first family wanted to take all the land in Mazowe. Mrs. Mugabe warned Chasi that he was “playing with fire” in his alleged attempt to block the first family from taking over Manzou Farm in Mashonaland Central.
In March this year, armed police backed by the Central Intelligence Organization destroyed homes and forced the villagers off the farm, allegedly to make way for President Mugabe's family, who want it for game ranching.
The more than 900 families were forced to abandon their maize and tobacco crops and the villagers are now facing starvation after losing the crop which was meant to sustain them until the next season.
The villagers have since filed an urgent High Court petition through their lawyers, asking that the evictions be halted until they are given alternative accommodation.
Ironically after President Mugabe fired Mrs. Mujuru and other cabinet ministers two weeks ago, Chasi was interviewed in the weekly Financial Gazette last week and said he never felt his job was on the line.
“I was not aware that I was under threat at all. It was really a perception the media had but at no time did I ever feel that I was threatened nor was I distracted from my mandate. I became even more focused on the tasks that I am mandated to carry out,” Chasi said in an interview with the Financial Gazette.
He added that, “if at all I was under threat, I would naturally be delighted to have escaped the chop but when one gets into this type of job, they should always understand that their superiors may either reassign or recall them from their jobs and this should not cause one to worry.
“It’s a great opportunity to be allowed to continue to serve my country in this capacity and I will do my best,” he added.
Asked by VOA Studio 7 if he was shocked by the turn of events, Chasi said, “From the point of view that one is appointed, I do not think this one (the firing) should be a surprise if they are relieved of their duties.”
Earlier this month, Mr. Mugabe axed, along with Mujuru, Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa, Labour Minister Nicholas Goche, Indigenization Minister Francis Nhema, Higher and Tertiary Education Minister Olivia Muchena, Information Communication Technology Minister Webster Shamu and Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs Minister Simbaneuta Mudarikwa, Energy Minister Dzikamai Mavhaire and his deputy Munacho Mutezo.
He alleged that they had hatched a plan with Mrs. Mujuru to topple him using unconstitutional means ahead of the party’s December congress. The former vice president and her allies are denying these allegations.
President Mugabe may have been sworn-in last year, but his advanced age and frequent trips to seek medical attention in Asia are said to have been fueling succession fights in his party.
With Mrs. Mujuru now neutralized, political analysts say Mr. Mnangagwa now has the inside lane, but there are reports of intra-fractional fights in the vice president’s camp.