Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe fired Emmerson Mnangagwa as Vice President today for showing “traits of disloyalty”, but the announcement was made by Information Minister Simon Khaya Moyo and not by Mugabe himself.
The move abruptly removed a favourite to succeed the 93-year-old leader.
Mnangagwa’s removal provides a boost for Mugabe’s wife, Grace, who has been a vocal critic of the vice president and is also seen as a potential successor to her husband.
“The vice president has consistently and persistently exhibited traits of disloyalty, disrespect, deceitfulness and unreliability,” Information Minister Simon Khaya Moyo told reporters.
“It had become evident that his conduct in his discharge of his duties had become inconsistent with his official responsibilities.”
Mnangagwa’s top aide Christopher Gwatidzo said he had not seen the statement by Khaya Moyo and declined to say whether the vice president had been at his office today.
Grace, 52, nicknamed “Gucci Grace” for her love of shopping, called Mnangagwa a “coup plotter” and a “coward” yesterday in a speech that inflamed an already bad-tempered rift in the ruling ZANU-PF party.
It followed a speech by Mugabe at a rally on Saturday where he publicly rebuked his deputy for the first time.
The reaction of the military could be key. Some army generals backed Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe and have publicly said they will not allow someone who did not fight in the 1970s independence war to rule. Grace did not fight in that war.
Grace made international headlines in August when a South African model said the Zimbabwean first lady had whipped her with an electric cable in a Johannesburg hotel suite. Grace denied the allegations.
The fight over the future control of ZANU-PF has overshadowed an economic crisis marked by chronic shortages of cash and spiraling prices of goods that has raised fears of a return to hyperinflation.
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