Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has appointed Minister of Justice Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zimbabwe’s former ambassador to South Africa Phelekezela Mphoko as his party deputies.
The two automatically become state vice-presidents when they are sworn in on Friday.
Mugabe made the announcement at an extraordinary central committee meeting at the party’s headquarters in Harare on Wednesday.
Mnangagwa’s appointment as vice-president makes him the favourite to succeed Mugabe, who turns 91 in February. He has been engaged in a protracted battle with former vice-president Joice Mujuru, who was fired on Tuesday after she was accused of plotting to oust the president and planning to assassinate him.
Mnangagwa and Mujuru headed up the two main factions battling to control Zanu-PF, but in the run-up to last week’s congress, Mugabe’s wife Grace joined hands with the Mnangagwa faction to derail Mujuru’s presidential bid.
- Read: Mujuru denies plotting Mugabe’s assassination
- Read: Axing Mujuru bodes ill for business in Zimbabwe
But Mugabe said his deputies will have no real influence as he would be firmly in charge. “The two vice-presidents have no real big function except that they are my deputies. I can give them work to do,” he said.
“At the top will be President Mugabe and there are two vice-presidents, one of whom will be drawn from Zapu and one from Zanu. From the Zanu side is Emmerson Mnangagwa,” he said amid wild cheers from the crowd, which chanted “yes, yes, yes”.
“From the former Zapu side we get Report [Phelekezela] Mphoko. Congratulations to him.”
Mugabe’s appointments are in line with the 1987 Unity Accord signed by Zanu-PF and PF-Zapu, which saw the two parties merge to form Zanu-PF. The Unity Accord ended civil unrest in the country during which about 20 000 civilians, mostly from the Matabeleland and Midlands region, were killed.
The two parties agreed that each of them should have a vice-president in government.
Seeking ‘true loyalty’
Mugabe shocked party members by abolishing the national chairperson’s position, which Simon Khaya Moyo held.
He said the two vice-presidents would alternately chair the party on a monthly basis. Mugabe added that he hoped they would be loyal to him.
“With regard to the vice-presidents, they automatically become vice-presidents in government, and these I would want to swear them in on Friday,” he said.
“They should take oaths that they will be loyal, truly loyal.”
The appointment of the vice-presidents follows the axing of Mujuru – and eight ministers who were loyal to her – on Tuesday.
Mugabe took the opportunity to announce his 26-strong politburo team, which consists largely of Mnangagwa loyalists.
He appointed his nephew, Ignatius Chombo, as the party’s secretary for administration, a position many thought would be awarded to Oppah Muchinguri as a reward for campaigning for Grace Mugabe. Muchinguri was appointed secretary for transport and social welfare.
Mujuru loyalist purge
Mugabe used his politburo appointments to purge Mujuru loyalists. Only two Mujuru loyalists remain.
Khaya Moyo, who was tipped to land the vice-presidency before the Mujuru faction was dismantled, was demoted to party secretary for information and publicity, having served as chairperson for the past five years.
Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, who survived attempts to boot him out of the party as a result of his support for Mujuru, was appointed secretary for war veterans.
Mugabe said he would announce the names of those who were to replace the cabinet ministers he fired this week on Thursday or Friday.