On Monday, 6th of November, Mugabe’s vice president and long-time ally Emmerson Mnangagwa was sacked over allegations of “disloyalty”. He has since fled the country to South Africa, fearing for his life, seeking refuge. Grace Mugabe (Robert Mugabe’s wife), has been slowly building a political career since 2014; she is angling for the newly vacant position of deputy, and is also speculated to be the potential successor to the Mugabe presidency. Mnangagwa was, up until this point the most likely to succeed Mugabe yet following his dismissal Grace Mugabe is now the favoured canidate. Mnangagwa has not left his political career though, he has vowed to return to Zimbabwe and take leadership, which is causing trouble for the Mugabe family as Emmerson does have a strong support base internationally and nationally.
Emmerson Mnangagwa is reportedly one of biggest political opponents that Mugabe has ever faced, as he is a long-time ally from the ruling Zanu-PF party and has been a key individual in upholding the Mugabe administration. An analyst from the International Crisis Group commented, “Mugabe has faced challenges from outside before, but never an internal challenge. This time it is the machinery that has kept him in power that is now shuddering.” Mnangagwa, on top of promising his return, gave a statement saying that he had been “vilified beyond measure” and was being “hounded by minnows who have no liberation credentials”. In the last statement referring back to his time spent fighting in the guerrilla wars, which has given him overwhelming support from the war veterans.
Mnangagwa and Grace Mugabe have had a bitter rivalry, leading up to the 2018 elections. Mnangagwa has accused Grace Mugabe of an attempted poisoning in October, as he fell ill following a political rally. She has since publically denied the allegations; additionally, she has had a track record of violent and abusive behaviour. In 2009, she had allegedly assaulted a British photographer in Hong Kong, after he tried to capture a picture of her. And since then she has been involved in several altercations in Singapore, Malaysia and the most recent in South Africa, where she allegedly assaulted a model in her son’s apartment. Mnangagwa has also been a source of controversy, from being involved in the atrocities that took place in the 1980’s to becoming a key figure in propping up the Mugabe regime, which has been severely corrupt and damaging to the nation of Zimbabwe.
The decision to sack the former VP has almost certainly solidified Grace Mugabe as the next deputy and successor of Mugabe, this entirely due to the strangle hold the President has on the politics in Zimbabwe. Yet Mugabe is rapidly losing his base, many long-term allies of Mugabe are not happy with the state of the country, the machinery that has kept him in power is slowly falling apart. His move to sack the VP and solidify his power with a family member, while effective at holding on to the political power, has had a drawback in the community. Many siding with the former VP and many rejecting Grace Mugabe on the basis of her controversial and violent behaviour.
There is a potential for Mnangagwa if he does in fact intend to return, he has promised to restore Zimbabwe to democracy. The best outcome for the international community would probably be the election of Mnangagwa and countries should be angling for that, if not outright, behind the scenes. Zimbabwe is in dire need of drastic change and that will only start by the help of the next leader of the country.