HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Monday fired a vice president who had previously been seen as a likely successor, removing an obstacle to the presidential ambitions of Mugabe’s wife.
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was removed from office “with immediate effect,” the government said, opening the way to the possible appointment of Grace Mugabe to the post.
The 93-year-old president and his wife have in recent months accused Mnangagwa of plotting to oust Zimbabwe’s leader, who has been in power since independence from white minority rule in 1980.
Mnangagwa had been vice president since 2014 when his predecessor, Joice Mujuru, was fired for allegedly plotting to oust Mugabe. His dismissal was announced by Simon Khaya Moyo, the information minister.
“It had become evident that his conduct in the discharge of his duties had become inconsistent with his official responsibilities. The vice president has consistently and persistently exhibited traits of disloyalty, disrespect, deceitfulness and unreliability,” said Khaya Moyo.
Mnangagwa was the most prominent of two vice presidents and had been part of Mugabe’s cabinet since independence in 1980. He is said to have enjoyed the support of military generals and war veterans; his critics view him as ruthless because he was in charge of state security when Mugabe unleashed a North Korean-trained brigade to crush dissent in western Zimbabwe in the 1980s.
At the weekend, both Mugabe and his wife used political rallies to suggest that Mnangagwa would be fired.
Speculation is now swirling over whether Grace Mugabe will be appointed to the vacant vice president’s post at a party congress next month. On Sunday, she said at a rally that she was ready to take over from her husband.
“So I have said to the president: ‘You can also leave me in charge,'” she said. “‘Give me the job and I will do it very well because I am good. I can do a great job.'”