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Zimbabwe’s political crisis: Who are the main players?

Peta Thornycroft in Harare and Aislinn Laing in Johannesburg |The Telegraph (UK) |

As the country’s vice-president is ousted after allegations she wanted to kill Robert Mugabe’s wife, who are the key political figures in Zimbabwe’s latest crisis?

Joice Mujuru, Zimbabwe’s long-serving vice president, has been removed from office by President Robert Mugabe, effectively splitting the ruling party Zanu PF asunder.

The following are potted biographies of the main political players in the country’s latest political crisis.

President Robert Mugabe
President Robert Mugabe

Robert Mugabe

Robert Mugabe, who turns 91 in February, led his people to democracy in 1980 and promised reconciliation with whites. He is the oldest active serving political leader in the world, and makes it clear he never intends retiring.

Since 1980 independence from Britain, he is accused of masterminding massacres of opposition supporters in western Zimbabwe and post-2000, of violence against the new opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change.

Many in Africa laud him for taking land from more than 3,000 white farmers for resettlement, a move which bankrupted the economy. Defeated in elections in 2008, he went into a unity government but won handsomely in disputed polls last year.

Grace Mugabe to study for doctorate
Grace Mugabe

Grace Mugabe

Also known as The First Shopper and Gucci Grace, the second Mrs Mugabe was originally a typist in the presidency when she caught her husband’s eye.

She gave birth to a daughter and was pregnant with the couple’s second of three children before the death of Mr Mugabe’s first wife, Ghanaian Sally Heyfron, and married Zimbabwe’s most powerful man in a lavish ceremony in 1996.

Self-styled philanthropist who runs a children’s home outside Harare, along with one of the country’s biggest dairy farms, she is also known for her love of shopping and designer brands, though she fervently denies it, describing herself as “frugal”.

She launched a surprise political career in July this year when she was nominated to take over as secretary of Zanu PF’s Womens’ League, a position that will automatically propel her into the party’s politburo. Since then, she is thought to have formed an alliance with presidential frontrunner Emmerson Mnangagwa, and has toured the country attacking Joice Mujuru, her husband’s former ally and Mr Mnangagwa’s rival.

Vice-president Joice Mujuru
Vice-president Joice Mujuru

Joice Mujuru

Joice Mujuru, 59, was the youngest member of Robert Mugabe’s first 1980 independence cabinet and has been Zimbabwe’s vice-president for 10 years but appears to have avoided being implicated in the decades of political violence in the country and as such, is widely preferred internationally to take over from Robert Mugabe.

She left school to join the independence war but has continued her studies over the past 20 years and was recently awarded a PhD by the University of Zimbabwe. Her husband Solomon Mujuru was a long-serving and powerful army chief who died in a mysterious fire at the family farm in 2011.

She is popular across party lines and had a good relationship with Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change colleagues when they served in the coalition government formed after disputed elections in 2008.

Emmerson Mnangagwa
Emmerson Mnangagwa

Emmerson Mnangagwa

“Don’t mess with Mnangagwa” is the stock warning about the man likely to be anointed as President Robert Mugabe’s successor next week.

Mr Mnangagwa, 72, was educated in Zambia where his parents lived as exiles from white rule at home, received his military training in China and a fought fiercely for Zanu PF victory throughout the liberation war, in the post-independence jostling for position and after 2000 when the MDC emerged as a rival.

An enigmatic figure, Mr Mnangagwa s rarely quoted in the media, and said by some of his opponents to have been Whitehall’s man in Zimbabwe during the 1980s, and to have repaid the white farmer whose land he took during the farm invasions.

He lives modestly but many believe him to be very wealthy from Zimbabwe’s 1990s war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and from unofficial gold deals allegedly managed for him by a well-known white Harare family. His ambition to be the vice-president was thwarted in 2004 when he was pushed aside to make room for Joice Mujuru, the party’s first female deputy premier.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai

Morgan Tsvangirai

Former trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai, 62, has survived financial and personal scandals, the death of his wife Susan in a car crash, as well as many Zanu PF plots to wipe him out or lock him up.

He recently won another five years at the helm of the Movement for Democratic Change, the main opposition party he founded 14 years ago, even though donors and many of his supporters have wearied of his long battle to oust President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF through a series of bloody and contested elections.

Mr Tsvangirai became Prime Minister and members of his party joined in coalition with Zanu PF after disputed 2008 elections, but the unity government ended with a massive and once again disputed Zanu PF victory in 2013. The Telegraph (UK)

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