Mugove Tafirenyika 29 July 2017
HARARE – Despite frantic attempts by President Robert Mugabe’s publicists
to convince the public that the incumbent was as fit as a fiddle, calls by
his wife that he must handpick a successor could be out of the realisation
that the Zanu PF leader has entered his political sunset.
Addressing members of the Zanu PF women’s league in the capital on
Thursday, Grace Mugabe broke with the party’s tradition by publicly
imploring her 93-year-old husband to anoint a successor so as to narrow
the widening crevices in his party over who should be the next president.
She reasoned that there was nothing amiss about choosing a successor as it
was the trend in other countries, including South Africa where Nelson
Mandela stood aside to make way for a successor, Thabo Mbeki.
“There is no succession without Mugabe and I have told him that you have a
role to play even if I know that he has said that the people will decide;
but his word will be final, mark my word,” Grace said as the league’s
administration secretary, Letina Undenge broke into song, “uri musoja
usatye, (don’t be afraid, you are a soldier).
Afghanistan-based political analyst Maxwell Saungweme, said Grace’s call
was an acknowledgement of Mugabe’s advancing age and its impact on his
It also exposes the panic and trepidation of the after-Mugabe reality, he
“It also shows that Mugabe and Grace are disagreeing on succession. Mugabe
prefers Zanu PF to decide its next leader through existing processes while
Grace wants Mugabe to anoint a leader. The speech shows schisms within
State House, Zanu PF and government,” said Saungweme.
He also reasoned that Grace’s call could be a desperate endeavour to pour
cold water on Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa (ED)’s chances of
succeeding Mugabe as well as the support that the Midlands godfather is
said to enjoy from the security forces.
Mugabe also railed the military for dabbling in politics in violation of
the country’s Constitution, which demands that they should be apolitical.
Saungweme warned that with the succession politics now so “dynamic, toxic
and perplexing”, the country will likely see political disturbances if
Mugabe were to appoint an heir.
Another analyst Gladys Hlatshwayo said the First Lady was basically trying
to “make hay while the sun shines” when she called for Mugabe to prepare
for a future post his rule.
“Simba rehove riri mumvura zvino dziva zvoropwa hove dzichaita sei? (It’s
a fish out of water situation) . . . They (Generation 40) are better off
influencing him to appoint a successor while he is still alive . . .
someone who will protect the interest of the First Family and G40,”
Hlatshwayo said, adding “it is therefore most likely that she is being
deployed to signal what Mugabe is about to do”.
Zanu PF is split between G40 and the Team Lacoste faction. The latter is
linked to Mnangagwa while the former is a conglomeration of cadres who
claim to support a Mugabe life presidency.
Hlatshwayo said the development could also mean that there are
disagreements between the G40 faction and Mugabe over how to deal with
this issue of a successor.
“If what Grace said is anything to go by, Mugabe is suggesting that the
people will decide when the time comes. This might be consistent with the
Machiavellian politics that he has used for the past 37 years and his
insatiable desire to rule until he joins his ancestors. Grace and G40
might be resorting to public gatherings as a way to push Mugabe to act.
“What can no longer be disputed is the fact that this is the end of an
era. A critical discourse analysis of the first lady’s ranting confirms
this. From `I will push him in a wheelchair’ to `he will rule from the
grave’ now it’s ` anoint a successor’. . . it’s slowly sinking in, he is
human after all!”.
Shakespeare Hamauswa, an analyst, weighed in saying Grace is realising
that Mugabe, at the ripe age of 93, is no longer able to continue.
“She is the one who stays with the president and is privy to the
challenges that old age is posing to the president.
“By demanding a VP post to be reserved for women, she is simply trying to
create a position for herself and that depends on how ED and Sekeramayi
strategically are going to position themselves”.
However, professor of World Politics at the University of London’s School
of Oriental and African Studies, Steven Chan, said with the ever-fluid
factions in Zanu PF, “it is almost impossible to speculate about the
“Grace’s latest call simply adds to the complicated picture. She is right
in that the country needs to have some certainty about its future.
“Many will suggest she is looking to a transitional period with herself as
vice president, poised for the election after the one in 2018,” said Chan.
Grace also claimed that some in the ruling party were being influenced by
an unnamed woman based in South Africa into dumping Mugabe.
She also took a swipe at party bigwigs who refuse to acknowledge her when
they chant party slogans saying that also would not change the fact that
she was in charge.