Assassins tried to poison my deputy, says Mugabe

SHAFAQNA – President Mugabe of Zimbabwe revealed yesterday that his new deputy has been the victim of a suspected assassination attack. The private office of Emmerson Mnangagwa was dusted with powder, the president told his party, which led to a secretary collapsing and being treated in intensive care.

Speaking at a party meeting on Wednesday, the president said: “We are aware of people who want to harm us, physical harm also.” Mr Mugabe did not elaborate.

The political atmosphere in his Zanu-PF party has been thick with accusations of assassination plots in the past month as Mr Mugabe, his wife, Grace, and the government-controlled media tried to damage the career of Joice Mujuru, the former vice-president. Mr Mubabe accused Ms Mujuru of trying to kill him, and cited this as his reason for dismissing her.

Ms Mujuru was this week replaced as national and party vice-president by Mr Mnangagwa, 72, seen as the central figure in Zimbabwe’s intelligence and military apparatus during the long years of mass murder since independence in 1980.

Ms Mujuru and Mr Mnangagwa have fought each other for at least 15 years, splitting the party in two. She was dumped when she gained supremacy and was seen as a threat to the president, insiders said.

Mr Mnangagwa’s nickname is Ngwena — crocodile — after his reputation for cunning and ruthlessness.

He joined the guerrilla campaign against the former whites-only Rhodesian government in the 1960s and was caught after blowing up a railway line, but avoided the death penalty by lying about his age. After independence he became minister of security.

When a short-lived insurgency broke out in western Zimbabwe in 1983, he played a central role in a campaign in which 20,000 Ndebele civilians were slaughtered. He denied that he had had any role in the massacre.

He narrowly escaped political ruin in 2004 when he was implicated in an alleged plot to become vice-president — the “offence” for which Mrs Mujuru has just been cast out.

Mr Mugabe rehabilitated Mr Mnangagwa in 2008 and made him his chief election agent.

Mr Munangagwa regards himself as a political radical, and this week described Mrs Mujuru as an “element that has become inconsistent with the correct line”.

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