End of line for Zim VP?

2014-12-04 06:15
Zimbabwe's vice president Joice Mujuru (AFP)

Zimbabwe's vice president Joice Mujuru (AFP)

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Special Report

Harare - She was once Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's favourite.

Welcoming Joice Mujuru to the vice presidency at a ruling Zanu-PF party congress in 2004, Mugabe suggested she could aim even "higher".

Exactly ten years later, the fortunes of the 59-year-old former guerilla fighter are being humiliatingly reversed.

Mugabe's young wife Grace - who stood next to Mujuru on the University of Zimbabwe podium as the pair were awarded PhDs in September - has told the vice president she "stinks", in one of a long list of increasingly fantastical insults lodged in the past two months.

As Mugabe officially opens a Zanu-PF congress in Harare on Thursday, Mujuru looks almost certain to lose her post and any hope - for now -of succeeding the 90-year-old president.

Joice "Spillblood" (her wartime name) Mujuru was Zimbabwe's youngest minister in a post-independence cabinet appointed by Mugabe after elections in 1980.

Her education had been cut short by the war for independence - but she pulled herself up by her bootstraps, studying in her spare time for first her Ordinary Level school-leavers' exam and then her pre-university Advanced Levels.

She was married to Solomon Mujuru, the head of the Zimbabwe National Army, for a long time one of the most-feared men in the southern African country.

He was not a friend of Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe's current justice minister and the man who many Zimbabweans believe stands to gain hugely if Joice Mujuru is demoted.

It was when Solomon Mujuru died three years ago that the fragility of Mujuru's political position became obvious for the first time.

Solomon Mujuru was killed in a housefire at his farm in Beatrice in August 2011. The Mujuru family immediately voiced their suspicions: the windows of his bedroom were low, they said: he could have stepped out of them if a fire broke out. But an inquest returned a verdict of no foul play.

With her powerful husband gone, Mujuru's downfall now appears to many to have been pre-scripted - though there was little inkling of it publicly until this September.

That was when First Lady Grace, who at 49 is exactly the same age Mujuru was when she became vice president, began her astonishing attacks on the vice president, backed by state media.

In the last two months, Mujuru has been accused of corruption, of being behind a plot to assassinate Mugabe, of covering up a car accident in Harare which saw her daughter Chipo kill two people, of cooking for a Western diplomat and - bizarrely - of wearing a miniskirt.

Her ministerial allies have been swept out of Zanu-PF's central committee. They include Zanu-PF's secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa and Labour Minister Nicholas Goche. Both are officially "unwell" this week.

On Wednesday, Mugabe himself tore into his deputy, accusing her of consulting a witchdoctor and using tadpoles in a spell to try to grab power from him.

"Sordid, sordid things were happening," Mugabe told his central committee, in quotes carried by state media. "They [Mujuru and her supporters] said they read that Mugabe is going to die in September [2013]. But the man refused to die in that September and he still is refusing to die.

"We heard that their views were shared with the [opposition] MDC," the president added.

War veterans loyal to Grace Mugabe and Mnangagwa have vowed to bar Mujuru and her allies from entering the venue of the congress on Thursday - and the vice president's fate appears almost sealed.

"Is Mugabe getting medals for flogging a dead horse? Just let her go. Move on," wrote Zimbabwean Twitter user @MariaZest1, echoing the sentiments of many.

Social media conversations in Zimbabwe have been dominated by the Mujuru/Grace Mugabe battle for weeks.

Read more on:    joice mujuru  |  robert mugabe  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa

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