In a development that’s likely to imperil his re-election prospects during the much-anticipated 2018 harmonized elections, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe just fired his long-time Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Newly-minted information minister Simon Khaya Moyo explained on Monday that Mnangagwa was fired for “consistently and persistently” exhibiting “traits of disloyalty, disrespect, deceitfulness and unreliability.”
Only a few months ago, Mnangagwa, 75, was widely tipped to succeed the 93-year old Mugabe. He seemed to have succeeded where others had failed.
Mnangagwa and Gukurandi Massacres
The regime’s charges of “disloyalty” and “disrespect” are hard to believe. Mnangagwa has been at Mugabe’s side for over 52 years, dating back to the 1970s liberation war against the racist regime of white supremacist Rhodesian prime minister Ian Smith. He is one of the key architects of Mugabe’s 37-year authoritarian reign.
Mnangagwa played a leading role in Mugabe’s genocidal Gukurahundi massacres of the early 80s. He was Mugabe’s national security minister between 1980 and 1988, a moment of madness when Mugabe murdered an estimated 20,000 people in Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland and Midlands provinces. Since then, he served Mugabe as Minister of Justice, Speaker of Parliament, Minister of Rural Housing, and Minister of Defense.
Mnangagwa became vice president in 2014 after Mugabe had fired his former VP Joice Mujuru. He instantly became an acceptable likely successor to Mugabe.
According to Jason Burke, the Guardian‘s Africa correspondent, “Despite his alleged involvement in atrocities in the 1980s, Mnangagwa was also the preferred candidate of much of the international community, where he was seen as most likely to guarantee a stable transition and implement economic reforms.”
In a December 2016 article entitled, “Last Days of Mugabe,” The New Statesman confirmed the international community’s strange willingness to embrace the continuation of the Mugabe dictatorship through Mnangagwa. Portraying Mnangagwa as “pragmatic and less ideological than Mugabe,” the article reminded us of his understanding of the “urgent need for reform,” and willingness “re-engage with the international community” and “attract foreign investment”.
According to the article, while “others invoked the example of President Paul Kagame, who has transformed Rwanda’s economy with the help of international financial institutions that choose to ignore his authoritarian excesses,” western donors were willing to “choose pragmatism over principle and give Mnangagwa the bailout he would urgently need.”
Some saw Mnangagwa’s expulsion coming.
In a surprise cabinet reshuffle in October, Mugabe stripped him of the powerful justice ministry. He handed it over to Major-General (Retired) Happyton Bonyongwe, a former head of the feared Central Intelligence Agency (CIO).
Then addressing a youth rally in Bulawayo on Saturday, Mugabe hinted that he might make the “final decision” and sack Mnangagwa.
“We are denigrated and insulted in the name of Mnangagwa. Did I make a mistake in appointing him as my deputy?” Mugabe reportedly said. “If I made a mistake by appointing Mnangagwa… tell me. I will drop him as early as tomorrow.”
Addressing indigenous church followers during a so-called “Super Sunday” rally in Harare over the weekend, the First Lady hammered the final nail in Mnangagwa’s political coffin. She bizarrely accused him of “harbouring coup plots” that “can be traced as far back as 1980 when he reportedly unsuccessfully attempted to wrestle power from President Mugabe soon after the country’s first democratic elections,” according to the state-owned Herald newspaper.
According to NewsDay, a “visibly angry” Grace demanded that Mnangagwa be fired before Zanu-PF’s extraordinary congress in December:
A snake is better dealt with by crushing the head. His head must be crushed. I have said I will personally make sure disciplinary procedures are followed to deal with Mnangagwa even if everyone in the party is scared. I will not be intimidated.
Mnangagwa’s dismissal paves way for Grace to take over from her ailing husband.
Still, it’s too early to count Mnangagwa out. He still enjoys the support of Zimbabwe’s powerful security chiefs and veterans of the country’s liberation against colonial rule.
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based blogger, activist, photographer, digital rights enthusiast, former political aide, and former international development administrator. He’s the founder and editor of these blogs: The Canadian Progressive, Zimbabwean Progressive, and Charity Files. Follow him on Twitter: @Obiemad
This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. No permission is required for non-commercial reuse and distribution. However, you’re strictly required to cite the original source in accordance with the terms of the license.