Zimbabwe's vice president hits back at 'demonic' attacks

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (right) and Joice Mujuru fell out in 2014
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (right) and Joice Mujuru fell out in 2014 (AFP Photo/Jekesai Njikizana) (AFP/File)

Harare (AFP) - Zimbabwe's Vice President Joice Mujuru on Monday said she is taking legal action against pro-government newspapers that accused her of corruption and plotting to topple President Robert Mugabe.

"I am accused of being involved in a plot to overthrow the legitimate Zimbabwean government led by His Excellency RG Mugabe," Mujuru said her in first full response to sustained charges against her in the state media, including weekend reports that she is leading a plot to assassinate veteran leader Mugabe.

"I deny any and all allegations of treason, corruption, incompetence and misuse of public office being routinely made against me in The Herald and The Sunday Mail newspapers.

She said she consulted her "legal practitioners to take the necessary steps at law to restore my good reputation, political standing and dignity."

Mujuru has come under attack after Mugabe's wife Grace claimed the vice president was extorting money from companies and that she was fomenting factionalism which is threatening to tear the ruling ZANU-PF party apart.

Grace Mugabe claimed Mujuru was incompetent and that Mugabe was doing the bulk of her work.

She urged Mujuru to apologise to Mugabe for alleged disloyalty, threatening street protests if Mugabe refused to "dump" her.

The ruling ZANU-PF has been riven by factionalism over Mugabe's succession although in the past party leaders have papered over the cracks.

The feuding escalated following the surprise nomination of Grace Mugabe to lead the powerful women's wing, amid speculation that she could be aiming to take over from her husband when he steps down or dies.

After her nomination she began a campaign disparaging her opponents, singling out Mujuru for the harshest attacks calling her "demonic" and "divisive".

Following the first lady's tirades, the party launched a purge suspending perceived Mujuru allies including party veteran and spokesman Rugare Gumbo.

Mujuru and powerful Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa -- who in the past controlled the secret police and military -- are seen as the leading contenders to replace Mugabe.

Mugabe is expected to be confirmed as the party's leader at the congress, but the fight for positions on the powerful politburo is seen as the start of a campaign by leaders to succeed him.