Africa

Zimbabwe vice-president Mujuru denies Mugabe plot

Joice Mujuru Image copyright AP
Image caption Mrs Mujuru, 59, was once seen as a possible successor to Mr Mugabe

The vice-president of Zimbabwe, Joice Mujuru, has rejected accusations of corruption and plotting to kill President Robert Mugabe.

Mrs Mujuru, who was denounced by Mr Mugabe last week and removed from her post in ruling party Zanu-PF, said the accusations were "ridiculous".

There is speculation she could be sacked as vice-president in a cabinet reshuffle, possibly later on Tuesday.

Mrs Mujuru, 59, was once seen as a possible successor to Mr Mugabe.

President Mugabe sacked Energy Minister Dzikamai Mavhaire, seen as close to Mrs Mujuru, on Tuesday.

State media and Mr Mugabe's wife, Grace, have conducted a campaign against Mrs Mujuru for months.

In her first response since being removed from her party post, Mrs Mujuru said she had faced "ever-present" and "unlawful" threats against her person.

She said Zimbabwe's state media had "continued to publish malicious untruths" about her and that she had "become the fly in a web of lies whose final objective is the destruction of Zanu-PF".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Mugabe said he welcomed the actions of his wife (right) to expose alleged treachery

"Not a single iota of evidence", Mrs Mujuru said, had been produced to support allegations that she was a traitor.

Allegations that she had tried to remove Mr Mugabe from office were "ridiculous", she said.

Her loyalty to Mr Mugabe was "unquestionable", she insisted, and it was "repugnant" to suggest she had plotted to kill him or had been part of a conspiracy to do so.


Analysis - By Brian Hungwe, BBC News, Harare

Image copyright AFP

Joice Mujuru has been under siege for the past three months. First lady Grace Mugabe has been spewing vitriol, telling the vice-president at public rallies to either resign or apologise.

Mrs Mujuru has dug in despite the gravity of the allegations. Some of her allies are believed to have fled the country. Insiders say if Mrs Mujuru were to leave Zimbabwe it would be considered an admission of guilt.

Already, Mr Mugabe has hinted at her possible arrest. Mrs Mujuru's statement speaks to defiance, though she continues to express her loyalty to the country and to Mr Mugabe. Whatever happens, she appears ready to face the consequences. But her options are limited.

She is damned if she leaves the party, damned if she stays. Leaving the party will give rivals the chance to pounce. The intelligence services are known to keep files of "dirt" for use against those who defect.

If she stays, she is likely to demoralise her allies prepared to leave and form an opposition.


Trouble

Mr Mugabe, 90, has been in power since Zimbabwean independence in 1980.

Mrs Mujuru fought alongside him in the 1970s guerrilla war against white-minority rule and had been thought a possible successor as president.

But correspondents say her career ran into trouble when Mr Mugabe's wife, Grace, entered politics earlier this year.

Mrs Mugabe has repeatedly accused the vice-president of plotting against her husband. Mr Mugabe told delegates at last week's Zanu-PF party congress that he welcomed his wife's action to expose the alleged treachery.

Grace Mugabe, 49, once her husband's secretary, has recently been appointed leader of Zanu-PF's women's wing.

Speculation is building that she may seek to succeed Mr Mugabe herself.

Correspondents say another prominent figure expected to benefit from the political difficulties of Mrs Mujuru is the veteran Justice Minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

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