By Shingai Nyoka

HARARE, Dec 11– Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has appointed Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa as one of two deputies in both the ruling Zanu PF party and the government, confirming weeks of speculation about his likely candidate.

The lesser known Phelekezela Mphoko, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa, was appointed second deputy president.

There was a rapturous applause when Mnangagwa was named Wednesday to replace Joice Mujuru, who was dismissed on Tuesday as Zimbabwean and party deputy president, as Mugabe announced a raft of changes to his the top leadership of party and State.

The appointment of Mnangawa was expected, for a man who for a long time had been tipped as a potential successor to the presidency should the veteran leader step down.

The choice of the Second Deputy President, however, caught some off guard. Mphoko, a former high-ranking member and commander in the former PF ZAPU party, squeezed out S.K. Moyo, who had been widely tipped for the job.

A standalone national chair post has been scrapped — the two vice-presidents will rotate in this position. President Mugabe has also announced a trimmed politburo — the party’s national management team. There will be 22 heads of department.

The Secretary for Administration post has been given to Local Government Minister Ignatious Chombo, who comes from the president’s rural home. The shuffle is seen as a way to tighten Mugabe’s grip on power and rewarding loyalists. It comes a day after the sacking of Mujuru, and several ministers for alleged incompetence and for plotting his ouster. The country now awaits the Cabinet appointments and the swearing in ceremonies.