Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s wife refused to shake hands with Vice President Joice Mujuru as the battle to succeed the 90 year-old leader takes centre stage in the ruling party, State media reported Wednesday.
President Mugabe on Wednesday morning arrived at the Harare International Airport from Italy where he had attended the beatification of Pope Paul VI.
As has become the tradition, he was met at the airport by Ms Mujuru, top government officials and security chiefs.
President Mugabe had a brief chat with his deputy as he stepped out of the plane but the First Lady ignored Ms Mujuru who had extended her hand.
She went on to shake hands with other government officials that lined up besides the vice president.
President Mugabe’s wife in August accepted nomination to lead the ruling Zanu PF party’s women wing ahead of a congress in December.
Last week, she held nationwide rallies where she told her husband to dump Ms Mujuru accusing her of backstabbing and dabbling in corruption.
She said if President Mugabe does not fire the vice president, she would do it herself.
The First Lady accused Ms Mujuru – a veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle – of plotting to unseat the long time ruler before his term ends.
Zanu PF will elect new leaders at the December congress but President Mugabe’s post is secure as some structures of the party have already endorsed him to run for another term in 2018.
The party acknowledges that it is riven by factionalism fuelled by the jostling to succeed Zimbabwe’s only ruler since independence.
Ms Mujuru whose influential husband died in a mysterious fire in 2011 has been accused by the First Lady of leading a faction in Zanu PF.
The other faction is reportedly led by Justice minister Emerson Mnangagwa and it has been accused of roping President Mugabe’s wife to recover lost ground ahead of the congress.
Both Ms Mujuru and Mr Mnangagwa deny leading factions.
Meanwhile, Mrs Mugabe did not award herself a doctorate degree, the country’s Information minister Jonathan Moyo has said.
The 49 year-old First Lady was in August capped by her husband who is also the chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) amid protests that she had not studied for the degree.
RETURN THE DEGREE
Other graduands included the Vice President Mujuru and 10 senior government officials.
However, it is President Mugabe’s wife that has caused uproar with UZ students going to the extent seeking the intervention of the courts to have her return the degree.
Prof Moyo has said the media had politicised a purely academic matter. “We are talking about an academic degree and must remember that nobody awards themselves a degree,” he told journalists.
“You can only be judged yourself by what you do, but one thing you can never do – you can’t give yourself a degree.”
The minister said the First Lady can only be criticised if she had given herself the degree.
“She has never done that and no-one has claimed anything to that effect,” he said. “I think that there is sometimes, a problem when the media creates an issue and we run with that issue and then miss facts.
“So far there is no controversy. If there is any, it’s the controversy created by ignorant people who actually have not seen the degree itself. They have not seen the dissertation and they have not seen the dissertations of others.”
President Mugabe’s political opponents claim that his wife did not earn the doctorate because her academic record beyond a first degree was not known.
The First Lady only obtained a degree from a Chinese university in 2011.
Prior to that, there had been reports that she was forced to withdraw from a British university due to poor results after eight years studying with the institution.
In June, there were reports that she had registered with the UZ to study for a PhD and the unexpected graduation sparked claims she had fast tracked her studies.
Her husband is the chancellor of all government run universities in Zimbabwe including the UZ.
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