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PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe left the country for Equatorial Guinea for the Turkey-Africa Summit, leaving under-fire Vice-President Dr Joice Mujuru in charge of the State and the Government.

Mugabe is under renewed pressure from his wife Grace to relieve Mujuru of her duties for alleged incompetence and corruption.

Mujuru and Zanu PF national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo were among top government officials and service chiefs who saw Mugabe off at the Harare International Airport yesterday afternoon.

The VP, who was elevated in 2004, has also been accused of plotting to assassinate the 90-year-old leader, a charge she has dismissed as defamatory.

Mujuru in a statement on Sunday said she would not step down as demanded by Grace, describing the calls as unconstitutional.

She threatened to take legal action against the State media for the sustained onslaught against her, which seems to dovetail with attacks by a faction linked to Grace.

Zanu PF has been purging senior officials suspected to have links with Mujuru as the party edges closer to a watershed congress.

The party's politburo meets this Saturday amid indications that strategists in Mugabe's faction are working overnight to ensure that he handpicks the two vice-presidents and the national chairman.

However, it is the decision by Mugabe to entrust Mujuru with the reins albeit temporarily that would send tongues wagging as his wife has been giving an impression that the relationship between the two has irretrievably broken down.

Grace on Monday and Tuesday revealed that her differences with Mujuru were personal after indicating that she had been told the VP wanted to humiliate her after her husband's death.

She said Mugabe's deputy was also captured on video saying "rotten things" about the First Family while wearing a movie-style mini skirt.

Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, who was suspended for five years, and war veterans' leader Jabulani Sibanda are some of the high-profile victims of the purge of suspected Mujuru.

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