via Grace creates chaos in Zanu PF – Nehanda Radio 20 October 2014 by Gift Phiri
HARARE – This week promises to be one of the biggest and most daunting in President Robert Mugabe’s long political career as he battles to manage the massive fallout in Zanu PF resulting from his wife’s reckless and relentless assaults of the past few weeks on the First Family’s perceived enemies inside the ruling party.
The nonagenarian leader will chair key Cabinet and politburo meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, which will take place in the wake of unprecedented post-independence infighting within Zanu PF, emanating from escalating factional and succession wars that have been ventilated by the First Lady’s entry into formal politics and her ill-advised recent utterances.
So high are the stakes that one senior Zanu PF official yesterday described the Wednesday politburo meeting, in particular, in an interview with the Daily News on Sunday, as “vitally important” in a make-or-break week not just for the party, but for Mugabe himself as well”.
The official, who is also a Cabinet minister, said Grace Mugabe’s behaviour and utterances in her “Meet the People” rallies of the past few weeks were shocking and unprecedented, which is why the Cabinet and politburo meetings will not be easy for the president this week”.
“It is an understatement to say that tension is sky high within the party at the moment. In fact, I’ve never experienced such palpable tension in our party like we are witnessing at the moment since we returned from the war in 1980.
“In my humble view, this is a make-or-break week not just for the party, but for President Mugabe himself as well, as he has to try and manage this unprecedented tension in which his wife, the First Lady, has played a key negative role.
“The president is, fortunately or unfortunately, the only person who can calm the waters a bit depending on what he does this week, and I pray that he will find Solomonic wisdom to deal with the ugliness that now pervades all party structures,” the official, who requested anonymity, said.
He added that the recent intra-party ructions did not have to be officially on the politburo agenda, “they would naturally be at the back of everything that would be said and done in the party” from now onwards.
“Look, what has happened is big and cannot be wished away. Unfortunately, it unwittingly places the president right in the middle of everything as his wife is at the centre of the current tension,” he said.
Another official said Grace had started “a fire that cannot be easily extinguished”.
“These are desperate times in our party and I do feel for the president as he is in a difficult position. If the party leadership does not deal with this matter carefully, I fear for the worst for our movement.
“Another thing that the First Lady may not have taken into consideration in her offensive is that if she formally becomes leader of the Women’s League, she may soon have to work under some of the very same people that she is attacking in public now. Has she thought about how this will pan out?” he asked.
Analyst Shepherd Mntungwa wondered whether the events of the past few weeks marked “the beginning of the end of Mugabe”.
“While it is true that Zanu PF has experienced many serious challenges before, we have never witnessed events as dramatic and as potentially historic challenges as those of the past few weeks. What makes things so complicated is that his own wife is now at the centre of the factionalism and anarchy.
“This is why I’m firmly of the belief that this week could even mark the beginning of the end of Mugabe and his long rule as he may battle to reinvent himself as demanded by the situation, remembering that he is no spring chicken anymore and the fact that his wife is now evidently wielding enormous influence in his decision making,” Mntungwa said.
In the meantime, Grace was accused of resorting to a “crass” war by members of her own party yesterday over her campaign of depicting Vice President Joice Mujuru as a corrupt and useless leader who should be fired by Mugabe.
Grace has used her rallies to rant and rave about members of the Mujuru faction’s alleged disloyalty to her 90-year-old husband, and has employed a bitter mix of threats, vitriol and caustic diatribes at rivals in the VP’s camp.
On the campaign trail, she has controversially prefaced her speeches with “God says..”, or “Baba wants….”. She has also accused top Zanu PF officials of widening cleavages in the faction-torn party by manoeuvring to replace her husband, and called on the Mujuru faction to let the nonagenarian “finish his job”.
However, a central committee source said yesterday: “Her campaign was aimed at Mujuru who doesn’t usually favour engaging in a war of words and we think her campaign has not been effective.”
Another Zanu PF official from Masvingo said Grace’s campaign was “a bit of fun” which failed to make a “serious point.”
Yet other officials said the current events echoed the 2004 botched palace coup that sought to block Mujuru’s ascendancy to the vice presidency, when an attempt to paint her negatively backfired and led to a humiliating defeat for a faction believed to be headed by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa and his allies were then accused of plotting a “coup” in what came to be known as the Tsholotsho Declaration.
In the aftermath of that episode, Mnangagwa was relegated to manage a backwater ministry for Social Amenities and Rural Housing. He was, however, rewarded with the defence portfolio after the bloody 2008 poll, where he was Mugabe’s chief election agent and where he allegedly spearheaded the party’s brutal campaigns as leader of the Joint Operations Command — a think-tank of top security chiefs.
One former minister described Grace’s current campaign as “crass”, adding: “They tried waging a war against the VP in 2004 in that clandestine meeting in Tsholotsho. It failed then and it will fail now again”.
Pedzisai Ruhanya, a democracy scholar and political analyst, said Grace’s campaign lacked a positive agenda and was thus doomed to fail.
He said with Mujuru’s impeccable liberation war credentials, toppling her was not a stroll in the park.
“I think in Zanu PF, apart from (the late) Sheba Tavarwisa (the only woman in the Zanu High Command in 1979), Joice Mujuru is among some of the most outstanding women liberation fighters,” Ruhanya told the Daily News on Sunday.
“It won’t be easy to remove Joice in that manner. Grace has no strategy. Joice has and only needs to remain calm.”
Other analysts said “virtually everyone in Zanu PF is corrupt”, adding that reports that Grace could succeed Mugabe was also “a dream that would never materialise”.
The 59-year-old VP joined Mugabe’s first post-independence Cabinet in 1980 at 25, and was one of the longest-serving government ministers before her elevation to the vice presidency in 2004. Daily News