Zimbabwe names new Vise President

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President Robert Mugabe named Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa his first vice president and deputy leader of the ruling party, strengthening his position as a possible successor to the 90-year-old leader.

Former ambassador Phelekeza Mphoko was named second vice president. They will be sworn in tomorrow, Mugabe told senior officials of his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front yesterday in the capital, Harare.

Mnangagwa, 68, has served under Mugabe as minister of housing, justice, state security, defense and as speaker of parliament. He was the chief of intelligence when Mugabe ordered the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade to crack down on rebels in the southwestern region of Matebeleland in the 1980s, resulting in the death of as many as 20,000 civilians from the Ndebele ethnic minority.

“Mnangagwa is certainly in a strong position, but with Mugabe you can never take anything for granted,” Brian Raftopolous, the Cape Town-based director of research at the Solidarity Peace Trust, a church-backed human rights group, said by phone.

Mnangagwa said he was humbled and honored to be named vice president.

“I assured the president, I want to assure the party, its leadership, that I will remain loyal, committed and delve the correct line of the revolution,” he told reporters.

Joice Mujuru Fired

The appointments came a day after Mugabe fired Joice Mujuru as his deputy and several senior cabinet officials to tighten grip over power in the southern African nation. Mujuru, 59, was excluded from top posts of Zanu-PF at its conference last week, after facing public accusations from Mugabe’s wife, Grace, and state-owned media that she was plotting against the president. She denied the allegations.

“They must be loyal, truly loyal,” Mugabe said of his vice presidents at the party’s Central Committee.

Mphoko was an ambassador to Russia and South Africa and is chairman of retailer Choppies Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has the world’s second-largest chrome and platinum reserves, as well as gold, diamonds and iron ore. Anglo American Platinum Ltd. (AMS), Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. (IMP)and Rio Tinto Plc (RIO) are among companies mining in the country.

The government is estimating growth of 3.2 percent this year, down from an average annual rate of 7.5 percent from 2009 to 2012, according to the African Development Bank.

At last week’s party congress, Grace Mugabe was appointed secretary of the Zanu-PF Women’s Affairs Department, ensuring her a position on the party’s decision-making politburo.

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