As I predicted on November 19th, after an alleged assassination plot was cooked up, a massive political purge in Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF has unfolded in the past several days. Vice President Joyce Mujuru, once widely seen as a potential successor to President Robert Mugabe, has been blocked from rejoining the party’s vast central committee ahead of the party conference in December. Her allies were also not re-elected. As a result, unless President Mugabe reverses course and uses his 10 discretionary appointments to restore their committee spots, none of them will be permitted to join the smaller Zanu-PF Politburo, the policy-making body of the ruling party that by default holds all the cabinet posts and deputy secretary positions in the country’s government.
Although she was not the only leader of a faction struggling for control of the Zanu-PF and jockeying to succeed the elderly dictator, Vice President Mujuru was the most direct threat to the rising star of Mugabe’s (much younger, second) wife, Grace Mugabe, who has no political experience but sought to appeal to the same female activist base in the party. (That base had previously been pretty locked in for Mujuru.) In sharp contrast with the First Lady — who was just a teenager when her now-husband was handed the keys to the country by Britain’s transition supervisors — Mujuru is a hardcore combat veteran of the liberation war (of which Robert Mugabe was a top leader) against the White Rhodesian government, a highly experienced politician and government official, and generally a serious figure in the way Grace Mugabe doesn’t seem to be.
Vice President Mujuru’s bid for re-election to the Zanu-PF central committee was blocked back home by her own province’s party committee, on the grounds that they didn’t want to support an alleged assassin. (Or a “demon,” if Grace Mugabe’s colorful accusations are also to be believed.)
Similar explanations were provided by local/provincial party committees for blocking all her cabinet allies, or else they were pushed to resign. In total, at least nine other cabinet ministers are now out, including very high-ranking officials such as the foreign minister.
Joyce Mujuru, the main (or most direct) rival for Zanu-PF ruling party control against Robert Mugabe’s wife in the increasingly public battle to become then next president of Zimbabwe, has been accused by state media of plotting to kill President Mugabe. I assume this accusation means she is about to be purged on trumped charges, possibly along with key supporters, thus securing Mrs. Mugabe’s succession (or at least narrowing the field to eliminate direct competition for the same base).
Zimbabwe’s vice president Joice Mujuru has said that she is taking legal action against pro-government newspapers that accused her of corruption and plotting to topple President Robert Mugabe.
“I am accused of being involved in a plot to overthrow the legitimate Zimbabwean government led by His Excellency RG Mugabe,” Mujuru said her in first full response to charges against her in the state media, including recent reports that she is leading a plot to assassinate the leader.
“I deny any and all allegations of treason, corruption, incompetence and misuse of public office being routinely made against me in The Herald and The Sunday Mail newspapers.”
She said she consulted her “legal practitioners to take the necessary steps at law to restore my good reputation, political standing and dignity”.
Robert Mugabe, age 90, is on his way out of power, after ruling Zimbabwe continuously as either prime minister or president since 1980, just months after independence. This is really happening this time. The scramble inside the ruling Zanu-PF party — between his previously non-political wife and various political competitors — to succeed him is now fully out in the open. No one is pretending otherwise or talking around it.
Given recent events in Burkina Faso and talk of a possible wave of sub-Saharan African dictators and strongmen being toppled or exiting suddenly, Zimbabwe’s succession struggle is rapidly taking center stage on the global radar… and all eyes are on whether the military will get involved.
According to The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, the military says it has no interest in choosing sides in an internal party matter, but it has recalled all its furloughed troops (previously sent home for budget reasons!) just to keep them from getting involved in the political scene while off-duty.
However, the ruling party has also hired a number of former senior military officials and troops will likely be deployed to restore order after the one faction inevitably loses.
90-year-old Robert Mugabe’s 49-year-old second wife (and former secretary, with no political experience) recently “earned” her PhD in just 2 months and unexpectedly became head of the ruling party’s Women’s League. Is she being positioned to succeed the dictator as Zimbabwe’s leader? Is she being manipulated by political factions to undercut rival contenders for the succession?
Whatever the reason, the barely suppressed outrage at her rapid promotions, even within President Mugabe’s own ruling party, is threatening to open the floodgates to open dissent and criticism of his leadership. Then again, it might be the case that he has already become so isolated and afraid that he could only trust his wife.