HARARE, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has fired his deputy Joice Mujuru and seven other cabinet ministers in a move that shocked the southern African nation.
According to a statement issued by the chief secretary to the president and cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, Mugabe exercised his Executive Powers to relieve Mujuru of her position on the grounds that “it had become evident that her conduct in the discharge of her duties had become inconsistent with the expected standard, exhibiting conflict between official responsibilities and private interests.”
Mujuru’s dismissal comes just days after she was eliminated from the ruling party’s central committee on the allegations that she planned to assassinate Mugabe.
Mujuru, 59, is the widow of Zimbabwe’s former army chief Solomon Mujuru. Airdropped to the vice presidency in 2004, she had been considered as one of the strongest candidates to succeed Mugabe, the nation’s founding father at 90 years old. Mujuru’s camp grew rapidly to be on par with the camp led by ZANU PF stalwart incumbent justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa as factional fights escalated.
But Mujuru’s political clout started to wither after her husband was killed in a fire at the couple’s rural home in 2011. The deadly blow came a few months ago when Mugabe’s wife Grace Mugabe began her own political campaign to fight for a seat in the ruling party’s Politburo.
The First Lady vehemently denounced Mujuru as corrupt, selfish, and harboring a coup plan which include assassinating the president.
Mugabe joined in the attack last week at the ruling party’s elective congress, accusing her of being “too hungry for power” and collaborating with the West to unseat him through a coup.
Mujuru, who missed the congress, issued a statement carried by private media Tuesday, defending herself. She called the allegations against her “ridiculous.”
“The most repugnant allegation made recently has been that I sought to assassinate the President,” the statement read. “My loyalty to His Excellency and my country Zimbabwe, is unquestionable. I would never be party to such an action or activity, alone or in a group.”
The party’s spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, a Mujuru supporter, was expelled from the party ahead of the congress, while the seven cabinet ministers who were dismissed are known to be loyal to Mujuru.
They are Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa, ICT Minister Webster Shamu, Indigenization Minister Francis Nhema, Higher Education Minister Olivia Muchena, Energy Minister Dzikamai Mavhaire, Labor Minister Nicholas Goche and Minister of State Provincial Affairs for Mashonaland East Province Simbaneuta Mudarikwa.
Mutasa and Goche were previously accused of taking part in the assassination plot.
“I think Mujuru’s political career ends here,” said a political analyst who declined to be named. “But the ugly fight may not go further.”
The analyst said he did not foresee Mujuru and other disgraced ministers to face trial anytime soon, even though they were accused by the state media of committing various crimes.
University of Zimbabwe Political Science lecturer Charity Manyeruke hailed Mugabe for taking the decision which she said will further strengthen the party by ending factionalism.
“That’s when the issue of anti-factionalism was sealed that ZPF does not tolerate anti-revolutionary behavior but that it respects people who are loyal to the party, that respect its leadership and therefore does not work in cabals and against the party,” Manyeruke said.
But another analyst, University of Zimbabwe constitutional law lecturer Lovemore Madhuku said the firing of Mujuru was a nonevent.
“The hiring and firing of ministers is presidential prerogative. It happens every day. So, it’s a common thing but Zanu-PF will not improve because of that,” Madhuku said, adding that he thinks a faction within Zanu-PF opposed to Mujuru had finally won in the vicious battle of succession.
“It seals victory for the Mnangagwa faction,” he said.
Meanwhile, economist and former CBZ chairman Luxon Zembe appealed to the ruling party to ensure political stability in the country for the economy to thrive.
Zimbabwe’s economic growth has slipped to annually 3.1 percent in 2014 and is forecast to only marginally rise to 3.2 percent next year, compared to annually 7 percent growth achieved during 2009 – 2012 period. Political instability, a slower inflow of foreign capital, and depleting alluvial diamond mines are cited as reasons behind the growth decline.
Zimbabwe, despite with abundant platinum, chrome, gold, nickle, and gold, is among the slowest growing economies in southern Africa region. Its neighbors South Africa, Mozambique, and Zambia are all the region’s economic powerhouses in terms of driving economic activities.
Zembe said businesses are anxious to see political stability to settle in and policies that support the economy and create a conducive climate for business are implemented.
“All we want is for people to have their jobs, for the business people to be able to realize meaningful returns on their investments and for Zimbabweans to lead a better and decent life,” Zembe said.