HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe accused his deputy Joice Mujuru on Wednesday of seeking to oust him, deriding her as thinking she could unlock funding from Western powers.
Mujuru, a battle-hardened guerrilla nicknamed “Spill Blood”, has faced accusations from Mugabe’s wife Grace and state-owned media of corruption and plotting to kill Mugabe in what analysts say is a smear campaign.
Mujuru, who leads a ZANU-PF group that is viewed as moderate and pro-business, has denied plotting against Mugabe, 90, who has ruled the southern African country since independence from Britain in 1980.
Mugabe accuses the West, especially London and Washington, of funding the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to remove him from power.
He told a meeting of his party’s central committee, which Mujuru did not attend, that she wanted him to step down only a year after he resoundingly won re-election. The MDC has said that vote was fraudulent.
“I fight an election and I’m expected to bow to my deputy and say I won an election, you take over. That was their expectation, foolish and idiotic,” Mugabe said to cheers from the 240-member central committee.
“Mujuru was hoping the West would pour billions into Zimbabwe after she took over. Where have they poured billions in a country with no Mugabe? Be content where you are,” he said.
Mugabe said party members were allowed to contest for top posts but should not do it through illegal means.
Mugabe has changed the party’s constitution to allow himself to appoint his deputies.
After his comments on Wednesday, it is unlikely he will retain Mujuru as his deputy and this may open the door for Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, her long-time rival.
Mugabe said ZANU-PF’s current five-yearly congress should prepare the party for the future.
“The future is very long and there will be a future without the present leaders. If you are left with such people (Mujuru), the party will disintegrate and we will return to white rule,” Mugabe said.
Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Clarence Fernandez/Ruth Pitchford