President Robert Mugabe yesterday named outgoing Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and former Zimbabwe ambassador to South Africa Phelekezela Mphoko his deputies, putting Mnangagwa in pole position to succeed him.
Zambia’s ruling PF party leader and Defence minister Edgar Lungu immediately jetted into the country and reportedly met Mnangagwa who then accompanied him to State House where he paid a courtesy call on Mugabe. Details of their meeting were not immediately available.
Mnangagwa replaced sacked former Vice-President Joice Mujuru while Mphoko succeeded the late Vice-President John Nkomo as part of the 1987 Unity Accord between Zanu PF and PF Zapu.
Mugabe abolished the national chairman’s post and demoted Simon Khaya Moyo to the position of secretary for information and publicity, previously held by expelled former spokesperson Rugare Gumbo.
The two Vice-Presidents were set to rotate as the party chairmen.
First Lady Grace became the highest-ranked woman in Zanu PF when she officially assumed the post of women’s affairs boss.
The presidium, according to Mugabe, will now have only three people instead of the previous four, namely Mugabe and his two VPs.
Tension gripped the Zanu PF headquarters before Mugabe arrived to announce the new politburo with lots of excitement and anxiety outside the venue.
When the veteran leader arrived, accompanied by Grace, he greeted journalists who had waited for hours to hear his statement before proceeding to the meeting room where the restless members of the central committee were waiting.
“There will be a President at the top and two Vice-Presidents,” Mugabe said.
“We are reducing that top heaviness. We will have the President and the two VPs. The two VPs have no real big function except that they are my deputies. I can give them work to do.”
Mugabe said he felt there was no need to have two VPs and a national chairman, adding that the two would rotate in chairing meetings. He said the politburo would comprise 22 departments after the inclusion of war veterans and ex-detainees.
“At the top is President Mugabe and there are two VPs, one of whom will be drawn from Zapu and the other from Zanu. From Zanu side is Cde Mnangagwa. We say congratulations to him,” Mugabe said.
“From PF Zapu, we have Mphoko. It’s only one plus those two to make us three who will be known as the presidium. The rest will be heads of departments.”
Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo was one of the biggest winners of the new set-up after he was named Zanu PF secretary for administration, previously held by fired President Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa, in a move that seemed to have shocked many.
Environment minister Saviour Kasukuwere became new political commissar, taking over from dismissed ICT minister Webster Shamu, who was booted out for participating in the alleged plot to unseat the President.
Transport minister Obert Mpofu was elevated to secretary for finance while Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi retained his external affairs portfolio.
Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi became secretary for national security while former women’s affairs boss Oppah Muchinguri was appointed transport and social welfare secretary.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa becomes secretary for legal affairs, taking over from Vice-President Mnangagwa.
Josiah Hungwe was named secretary for production and labour, taking over from ousted Energy minister Dzikamai Mavhaire who has also been fingered in the alleged plot to oust Mugabe.
Mike Bimha became implementation and economic empowerment secretary with Sydney Sekeramayi appointed secretary for war veterans.
Information minister Jonathan Moyo was named science and technology secretary with Joram Gumbo appointed the new secretary for education while Cain Mathema was named secretary for land reform and resettlement.
Cleveria Chizema was appointed health and child welfare secretary while Christopher Mushohwe took over as secretary for economic affairs.
War collaborator Pupurai Togarepi was named youth affairs secretary taking over from Absalom Sikhosana while Thokozile Mathuthu became gender and culture secretary. War veterans’ leader Chris Mutsvangwa is the deputy secretary for war veterans and will sit in the politburo.
Sithembiso Nyoni is the business development secretary while Prisca Mupfumira became environment and tourism secretary and Joshua Malinga the secretary for the disabled.
Mugabe said he hoped the new team would revitalise the party’s structures and stop using the party to build self-interests, attacking Mujuru and Mutasa for allegedly abusing their positions to plot “evil”.
He said he had included the department of war veterans and that the youth league and women’s league would have two representatives.
He said while some would be full-time, others would be accommodated in the Cabinet probably today or tomorrow.
Reacting to the appointments, NewsDay readers gave different positions with some hailing the move.
Pilani Dhlakama said: “This is unfortunate since these guys have been wired and will execute their duties robotically.”
Shungu Kwangwama said the new team was one of the best and hoped that it would achieve prosperity for the country. “One of the best set-ups ever destined to achieve greatness,” he wrote.
Melusi Manabe said: “Zimbabwe gone to the looters — this is such a sad development in the country.”