HARARE – President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday openly snubbed Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa when he refused to shake his hand at Harare International Airport.
The snub occurred as Mugabe was coming from an official trip to South Africa for the 2nd Session of the South Africa-Zimbabwe Bi-National Commission (BNC).
The development is one of the most vivid illustrations of the bitter fallout between the two most powerful men in Zanu PF.
It comes just after Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko has literally taken the gloves off on his counterpart, Mnangagwa, insinuating on Tuesday that the 75-year-old politician was lying that he was poisoned on August 12 while attending a Zanu PF youth interface meeting in Gwanda.
Mphoko, in a hard-hitting statement released on Tuesday night, accused Mnangagwa of undermining Mugabe’s authority and trying to destabilise the country by fanning ethnic tensions for political expediency.
Mugabe and his wife Grace have over the last few weeks unleashed scathing attacks against Mnangagwa accusing him of plotting to oust the 93-year-old Zanu PF leader.
The tensions between the two come as Mugabe is set to address a presidential youth interface rally in Bulawayo.
Today, the Zanu PF youth league executive, meets to prepare for that rally, where Mnangagwa is reportedly set to come under more withering attack.
State television footage shows Mugabe slowly moving up the red carpet, greeting his high ranking lieutenants lining up on either side.
The broad smile is instantly wiped off his face as he approaches Mnangagwa, who had already outstretched his right hand for a handshake.
Mugabe ignores the hand and, instead, utters a few words straight into Mnangagwa’s face before placing his hand on Mnangagwa’s chest and lightly pushing him.
Mugabe then wags his finger at him before walking away, still murmuring some words.
Mnangagwa pretends that nothing is going on, concealing his bemusement. Having withdrawn his hand, he follows Mugabe for a few steps all the way to the presidential Merc, where they appear to start conversing. Mphoko, towers over the two men as they engage in an animated discussion.
It’s a replay of the brutal purge of then Vice President Joice Mujuru.
In October 2014, First Lady Grace Mugabe also refused to shake Mujuru’s hand when she left for Rome and also when she returned back home.
During her rallies, Grace lashed at Mujuru, just like she is doing against Mnangagwa, and threatened to push Mugabe to “baby dump her” or have the women’s league do so.
The first lady also launched a purge of Mujuru’s closest supporters within the ruling Zanu PF, just like she is doing to Mnangagwa’s allies, in a bid to stymie the VP’s challenge to Mugabe.
Nine out of 10 Zanu PF provincial chairpersons allegedly linked to Mujuru were fired after a vote of no-confidence and replaced with what observers called friendly, if not pliable, comrades loyal to the first lady.
Analysts have said Mnangagwa is facing his waterloo, and his ouster could mark an abrupt end to his slow rise through the Zanu PF leadership, a path that many expected would make him the first Mugabe successor.