VICE President Phelekezela Mphoko has, with effect from Tuesday, taken over from his troubled colleague Emmerson Mnangagwa as the acting president, a government official said.
According to a statement issued by information secretary, George Charamba, Mphoko will be the acting president until President Robert Mugabe returns from his annual leave. Mugabe, who on Monday was meeting his Chinese colleague Xi in Beijing, returns to work at the end of January.
“Honourbale vice president Phelekezela Mphoko assumes the capacity of acting president from 10th January 2017 in the absence of his Excellency the president RG Mugabe, who is still on his traditional annual leave,” said Charamba.
“VP Mphoko will act up to the end of this month when His Excellency the President is expected back in the office.”
The development comes at a time when Mnangagwa’s rivals accuse him of plotting a coup over Christmas holidays after a picture emerged showing him carrying a huge mug emblazoned with the words “I am the Boss”.
A jovial Mnangagwa was seen surrounded by Zanu PF people including controversial businessman, Energy Mutodi, in a gathering which Mnangagwa’s rivals have dubbed the “Mug Declaration”.
According to his critics, this was the clearest indication that Mnangagwa thought of himself as the next president.
Mnangagwa has, however, dismissed the allegation as “cheap” propaganda by rivals.
On the other hand, Mphoko takes over after the dust had settled in a storm over his stay in hotel instead of a government house. Mphoko’s stay drew ridicule and protests at the Rainbow Towers in Harare. Many activists were arrested and whacked by the police for demonstrating against Mphoko.