Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe has fired Vice President Joice Mujuru and at least seven cabinet ministers, all allies of the former deputy president.
Mrs. Mujuru and her allies, according to Mr. Mugabe, were allegedly plotting to overthrow the 90-year old president.
The move comes hard-on-the-heels of Zanu-PF’s national congress where Mr. Mugabe was given a fresh mandate in a motion moved by Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and seconded by former Zanu-PF Women’s League boss Oppah Muchinguri.
In an exclusive interview, Mrs. Mujuru, once seen as a possible successor of the ageing President Mugabe, told VOA Studio 7’s Blessing Zulu that she has complied with Mr. Mugabe's request that she should step down.
"I am not a fighting character. I am a trained person. When you receive an order from your senior, you carry it out right through."
She denied accusations that she was plotting to oust the president from office, adding she will remain a loyal member of the ruling Zanu-PF party.
“Some people say that politics is a dirty game,” she said. “This time in Zanu-PF, it has become dirtier. I have no capacity of doing those things.”
Tuesday’s development follows accusations from First Lady Grace Mugabe that Mrs. Mujuru was unfit to lead the country; that she was corrupt and plotting to assassinate her husband, among other ills.
Mrs. Mugabe is now the party's new boss of the Zanu-PF women's wing.
Mr. Mugabe this week was re-elected to another five-year term as party leader.
Mr. Mugabe, still hailed by many in Africa as a liberation hero, has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980 when the country attainted political independence from Britain.
He remains subject to travel and financial sanctions by the U.S., Britain and other western countries that accuse him of rigging elections and ruining Zimbabwe's economy with his policies, especially the forcible transfer of white-owned commercial farmland to blacks.
In his letter to Mrs. Mujuru, which was delivered last night, Mr. Mugabe used Section 106 subsection 1(b) of the constitution to fire her. Section 1(b) apparently does not exist in the constitution.
VOA Studio’s Sandra Nyaira contacted constitutional lawyer Lovemore Madhuku on the implications of this move.
For analysis, on the continuing purge in Zanu-PF, Studio 7’s Chris Gande turned to communications lecturer and political analyst Zenzele Ndebele to help dissect the issue.
The ministers who were relieved of their duties are Information Communication Technology Minister Webster Shamu, Higher Education Minister Olivia Muchena, Energy Minister Dzikamai Mavhaire, his deputy Munacho Mutezo, Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa, Youth Minister Francis Nhema, Labour Minister Nicholas Goche and Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs Minister Simbaneuta Mudarikwa.
In a statement released by the chief secretary to the president and cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, a copy of which is in Studio 7’s possession, Mr. Mugabe used Section 108(1)(a) of the new constitution to dismiss the ministers saying their conduct and performance was below his expected standards.
One of the sacked ministers, Mavhaire, became cheeky when he was contacted for comment but later thanked Mr. Mugabe for affording him an opportunity to serve in his cabinet.
Mavhaire also fell out of favour with Mr. Mugabe in 1998 when he called for the president to resign due to his advanced age.
Meanwhile, political analyst, George Makoni, who is also the programs officer of the Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe, said what happened confirms that Zanu-PF bigwigs are playing what he called “a cat and mouse game”.
Former president of the Zimbabwe National Students Union, Pride Mkono, told Studio 7 that the firing of Mrs. Mujuru and the ministers who are allegedly perceived to be siding with her, shows that Mr. Mugabe’s succession will now have to decide his own succession without the involvement of other players like Mujuru.
Political analyst and veteran journalist, Sydney Masamvu, says the Zanu PF is now more divided than ever following Mujuru’s sacking but did not rule her out of the country’s political equation.
Prior to the Zanu PF congress that attended at the weekend which the ousted vice president boycotted, Mrs. Mujuru was accused of plotting to assassinate Mr. Mugabe, corruption, incompetency and selling out to the country’s so-called detractors.
But the former vice president issued a statement yesterday distancing herself from the accusations adding that she remained loyal to Mr. Mugabe .