via ‘First Lady wants to secure future’ – DailyNews Live Tendai Kamhungira, DEPUTY CHIEF WRITER • 29 November 2015
HARARE – Firts Lady Grace Mugabe’s growing involvement in the goings-on in the ruling Zanu PF belie both her higher leadership ambitions despite her protestations to the contrary, as well as her anxiety about a future without President Robert Mugabe, analysts say.
Speaking to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday in the wake of Zanu PF’s worsening factional and succession wars, as well as the party’s tumultuous politburo meeting last Wednesday — where she clashed with Water minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri — the analysts said her ongoing countrywide rallies were also meant to shore up her power in the former liberation movement.
“It seems Grace may be driven by both ambition and fear of a post-Mugabe era, and she probably believes the best way to secure her future is to succeed her husband. But that is a huge political gamble that could backfire massively,” senior Africa researcher at the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Dewa Mavhinga, said.
“To understand what is happening in Zanu PF and Grace’s political plans it is not necessary to listen to what she says because it can easily be misleading. People must observe what she is doing and what Zanu PF is doing in order to see the real direction of things.
“All the rallies and meet-the-people campaigns, and her so-called donations are meant to create a certain image and prepare people for the inevitable announcement of her grand political ambitions.
“Whoever says there is no bigger plan behind Grace’s whirlwind campaigns across the country is lying with a straight face. This could very well be the establishment of a Mugabe dynasty, if the people of Zimbabwe allow it,” Mavhinga added.
The first lady’s vociferous band of supporters have for some time now been using custom labels, stickers on buses and cars, bottled water and T-shirts emblazoned with her face to boost her political standing in the ruling party.
In addition, they have also lately been preaching about and spreading the controversial slogan “Munhu wese kunaAmai” (everyone must follow Grace) as they seek to present her as a worthy and viable Mugabe successor.
UK-based analyst and former advisor to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Alex Magaisa, said even though Grace was denying harbouring any presidential ambitions, it was clear that she was campaigning for a top political position.
“She is using her current role to raise her profile in the hope of launching a bid in future. She is building the nest and this is a good time to do it while she has access to State resources. Whether this will remain the case if Mugabe is gone is debatable,” Magaisa said.
South Africa-based analyst Taurai Mabhachi also said it was clear that Grace was pushing to succeed her husband.
“The Zanu PF president, who is her husband, has reached the twilight of his political life. Ordinarily, this kind of a scenario sees people positioning themselves to succeed him.
“It is also a verifiable truth that Mugabe has tacitly endorsed his wife to succeed him, given the fact that many Cabinet ministers attend rallies organised by his wife.
“The mere fact that she is visiting provinces where the political power lies is a clear demonstration that she has already thrown her hat in the succession battle,” he said.
He added that the fact that Grace was also distributing farming inputs sourced by the government was a ploy by her and her supporters to curry favour with the electorate.
“She would want to win the hearts of Zanu PF supporters prior to seeking support outside the party,” Mabhachi said, adding that Grace had now effectively usurped the power of government officials.
University of Zimbabwe political scientist, Shakespear Hamauswa, said the prevailing political situation showed that Zanu PF was in a succession crisis, in which Grace had become an important player.
“What is clear and undeniable is that Grace is being used as a pawn in a chess game. She has become influential but the influence will last as long as Mugabe lives. So, she will likely be a king maker,” he said.
“The process of succession is now a mess and anything is possible. We can be guided possibly by the consistency and or lack of it in her statements.
“We can see that in Mberengwa she was diplomatic, coming out in what seemed to be an endorsement for Mnangagwa. But unfortunately, the following day she was singing a different song,” Hamauswa added.
Well-placed sources who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday’s sister paper, the Daily News said so explosive was Zanu PF’s politburo meeting last week that Muchinguri-Kashiri — a perceived staunch ally of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, allegedly wept uncontrollably in the meeting, amid fierce factional fighting — and as a stunned Mugabe apparently watched the farce in stony silence.
This came after the politburo had endorsed the suspension and expulsion of many perceived supporters of the embattled VP, amid claims that more senior party officials loyal to him were set to face the chop in the next few months, as the post-congress Zanu PF’s factional and succession wars continue to escalate.
Mnangagwa himself is said to have not personally attempted to either oppose or stop Wednesday’s suspensions and expulsions during the politburo’s deliberations, appearing instead to “look up to president Mugabe for direction and help, but Gushungo (Mugabe) never said a thing”.
Muchinguri-Kashiri — who is allegedly aligned to the VP and has recently been locked in a vicious power struggle with Grace’s supporters in Manicaland — is alleged to have started the fight with the first lady whom she accused of fuelling infighting in the troubled province.
The Water minister, according to insiders, allegedly told Grace that she was the most senior party official in the province and thus always needed to be consulted on important decisions impacting on the region — apparently further insinuating that Grace had so far failed to run the women’s league properly.
“This angered Amai (Grace) and as she spoke, she got angrier and angrier saying ‘wakabvira kare uchindijairira … (You have never respected me)”— apparently going on to give Muchinguri-Kashiri a severe tongue-lashing which resulted in Muchinguri-Kashiri crying.
Ironically, the two women were buddies only last year when they worked together to oust former Vice President Joice Mujuru from power. In addition, Muchinguri-Kashiri relinquished her post as women’s league secretary to make way for Grace.
Mugabe is said to have avoided joining the bust-up, only speaking much later when he appeared to admonish both Muchinguri-Kashiri and War veterans minister Christopher Mutsvangwa for often flaunting their liberation war credentials to get special treatment in the party.
“The president acknowledged the important role the war veterans had played, and continued to play, but warned that their continued deification could divide Zanu PF,” another source said.