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Zimbabwe's Mugabe warns 'treacherous' plotters

December 5, 2014

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has purged his one-time most likely successor, denouncing her at a party congress. The veteran leader is expected to nominate several loyalists, including his wife, to key positions.

Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe
Image: Reuters

President Mugabe said on Thursday that any top official who plotted against his government would face the possibility of dismissal and prosecution.

At a speech on Thursday, the president who has ruled the country for the past 34 years, also singled out one of his closest former political confidantes for condemnation.

The 90-year-old leader is believed to be using the congress to reinforce his position as party leader and appoint a new vice president.

Mugabe has already fired a series of top officials, including his former spokesman Rugare Gumbo. However, it is his Vice President Joice Mujuru - seen as a relative moderate - who has incurred to the worst of his wrath.

'The way of crooks'

In his address to some 12,000 delegates gathered at Robert Mugabe Square in central Harare on Thursday, Mugabe drew attention to her absence.

"As you can see here are gaps here," Mugabe said, referring to Mujuru's empty seat at the congress' opening day. "Some of our colleagues did not turn up even though we have not chased them away," Mugabe said. "That's the way of crooks."

Earlier, militant youth members of ZANU-PFC had said they would not allow Mujuru and her sympathizers to set foot at the congress venue. Mujuru last week failed to win a seat on the ruling party's central committee.

Grace Mugabe
Grace Mugabe, typist turned political attack dogImage: J. Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images

Mugabe, who on Tuesday accused Mujuru of working with both the political opposition and the United States, denounced her on Thursday for leading a cabal "parallel to the party, planning to take the president out of power." Mugabe accuses the West of funding the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

"Those who committed the crime and corruption will be prosecuted once we get the evidence," said Mugabe. "Even if you are a government minister, deputy minister or a civil servant, you will be fired."

President's wife in the wings

On Wednesday, Mugabe slammed rumors that he was planning to stand down as "foolish" and "idiotic."

The campaign against Mujuru has been spearheaded by Mugabe's wife Grace, who publicly accused her not only of corruption but of plotting to assassinate Mugabe. The president's wife, a former typist, has made no secret of her desire to one day lead the country. In August, she won a surprise nomination to lead the women's wing of ZANU-PF.

At the congress which runs until Saturday, the party is expected to make amendments to its constitution that will allow Mugabe to appoint his own deputies.

Despite Grace Mugabe's apparent ambitions, Mugabe's next number two would appear likely to be his 68-year-old Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa was himself the victim of a purge in 2004, when he lost a top job after being charged with excessive ambition.

rc/av (AFP, AP, Reuters)