Zimbabweans eye Mnangagwa’s VP picks for new blood as ruling party meets

President Emmerson Mnangagwa chairs his inaugural cabinet meeting as Head of State and Government while flanked Ministers Sithembiso Nyoni, Obert Mpofu, Simon Khaya Moyo and Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda (far right) at Munhumutapa offices in Harare. – Picture: Believe Nyakudjara
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HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s ruling party bosses kicked off their first meeting of the post-Mugabe era on Wednesday with many Zimbabweans keen to know who new President Emmerson Mnangagwa will appoint as his two deputies and whether they will mark a break with the country’s old guard.

Mnangagwa, a Mugabe loyalist for decades, whose sacking as vice-president triggered the 93-year-old’s removal by the military after 37 years in power, was sworn in as president last month. He will be confirmed as ZANU-PF party leader at a special one-day congress on Friday.

ZANU-PF party spokesman Simon Khaya Moyo has said Mnangagwa will choose his deputies either this week or later. A second vice-president, Phelekezela Mphoko, who was seen aligned to the G40 party faction allied to Mugabe and his much younger wife, Grace, has already been sacked from the party and his post.

Party and government officials have refused to comment on speculation in privately-owned newspapers and on social media that Mnangagwa is likely to appoint military chief General Constantine Chiwenga one of his deputies as a reward for spearheading the de facto coup that ended Mugabe’s rule.

The new president has been criticised by some Zimbabweans and opposition parties for appointing former air force commander Perrance Shiri as agriculture minister and General Sibusiso Moyo as foreign and international trade minister rather than bringing in younger candidates less associated with the Mugabe era.

Mnangagwa made no comments to the media ahead of the closed-door politburo meeting on Wednesday at which Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Shiri will report on the party’s economic and agricultural plans.

He has vowed to focus on reviving the struggling economy and creating jobs. Once seen among Africa’s most promising economies, Zimbabwe has an unemployment rate exceeding 80 percent.