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Mugabe Fires Chinamasa, Weakens Mnangagwa

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PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has fired his finance minister in a cabinet reshuffle that weakened the influence of his vice-president, who is vying to succeed him after 37 years of rule over the southern African nation.

Patrick Chinamasa was the most high-profile ally of Emmerson Mnangagwa to fall in the reshuffle, which Mugabe announced on Monday following attacks on his deputy that were led by the president’s wife, Grace.

Last week, Grace Mugabe accused Mnangagwa of presenting a severe recent bout of illness as an attempt by her to poison him.

She added that the vice-president, who has allies among veterans of Zimbabwe’s war of independence, was fomenting a coup.

The reshuffle also removed control of the justice ministry from Mnangagwa and assigned other key posts to supporters of a faction that is linked to Mugabe.

Chinamasa was replaced by Ignatius Chombo, a former home affairs minister.

The public infighting in Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF is a sign that a battle between Mnangagwa and Grace to be his unquestioned successor is coming to a head.

Mugabe, 93, is the official Zanu-PF candidate in a presidential election which is due by July 2018 at the latest, but is increasingly ailing physically.

Grace has been associated with a younger generation in Zanu-PF, while Mnangagwa, 75, has been linked, especially through Chinamasa, to promises of reform to entice international lenders back to Zimbabwe in order to relieve a financial crisis.

Zimbabwe’s economy and banks, which use the US dollar as the main currency after hyperinflation in 2008 led to the withdrawal of the country’s own money, have been buckling under a growing shortage of cash this year.

The shortage has been caused by money flowing abroad to pay for imports, which the central bank is attempting to stem by issuing “bond notes” that are meant to equal dollars in value.

But the black-market rate between bond notes and US dollars has widened in recent weeks amid rumours of growing shortages including panic-buying of basic goods.

Mugabe has become increasingly prominent in public Zanu-PF rallies alongside her husband — and in scandals abroad, including avoiding charges of beating a young woman in South Africa with an electrical cord, after which she claimed diplomatic immunity.

The Financial Times

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