Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has removed Emmerson Mnangagwa from the vice-presidency for displaying “traits of disloyalty”, according to the Information Ministry, abruptly removing a favorite to succeed the 93-year-old leader.
Mr. Mnangagwa’s removal provides a boost for Mr. 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 said.
Mr. 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 yesterday.
Grace Mugabe, 52 — nicknamed Gucci Grace for her love of shopping — called Mr. Mnangagwa a “coup plotter” and a “coward” in a weekend speech that inflamed an already bad-tempered rift within the ruling Zanu-PF party.
It followed a speech by Mr. Mugabe at a rally on Saturday where he publicly rebuked his deputy for the first time.
The reaction of the military to Mr. Mnangagwa’s dismissal could dictate how coming events will unfold.
Some army generals backed Mr. Mnangagwa to succeed Mr. Mugabe and have publicly said they will not allow someone who did not fight in the 1970s independence war to rule — Ms. Mugabe did not fight in that war.
Opposition weakened, fractured for 2018 elections
Ms. Mugabe 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, which the President’s wife has denied.
Nonetheless, the fight over the future control of the ruling Zanu-PF party 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.
Mr. Mnangagwa was seen as Mr. Mugabe’s protege and had been at his side through five decades of prison, guerrilla war, and then post-liberation government, and questions are being raised about what caused the fallout between the two men.
By firing Mr. Mnangagwa, Mr. Mugabe has removed one of his last remaining liberation war comrades who has stood by him since independence from Britain in 1980.
Mr. Mugabe will likely face a weakened and fractured opposition when he contests next year’s elections.
His main rival Morgan Tsvangirai has been in and out of a South African hospital after announcing he had colon cancer in 2016.