FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe has now taken charge of both Zanu PF and government following disclosures that the two Vice-Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko take instructions from her, observers have said.
By OBEY MANAYITI/MOSES MATENGA
On Wednesday, Grace disclosed that she regularly had one-on-one meetings with Mnangagwa and Mphoko, who, unlike their predecessor, former Vice-President Joice Mujuru, take notes while she speaks.
Opposition parties and analysts who spoke to NewsDay yesterday said Grace’s remarks in Kadoma at the launch of a housing project by a Zanu PF functionary all but confirmed that she was now the de facto leader of both Zanu PF and government.
They urged President Robert Mugabe to resign, as he was no longer in control, saying that the 91-year-old had ceded control to his 49-year-old wife.
Whenever Grace goes to address, a huge entourage comprising the VPs, several government ministers, legislators and heads of government departments accompany her despite that she does not have official executive powers.
MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said there was a “pillow d’etat” in government and Zanu PF. He questioned how Grace now had the authority to give orders to VPs.
“We now have a two-fold crisis of legitimacy in the country. Not only did Mugabe steal a mandate in 2013, but that mandate has also been stolen from him by his wife. A few months ago, (former war veterans’ leader) Jabulani Sibanda spoke of a bedroom coup and Zimbabweans thought it was a laughing matter,” Tamborinyoka said.
“Now the ‘pillow d’etat’ is official. Grace is now in charge. When you have two VPs, pen and notebook in hand, daily taking notes and instructions not from the President, but from his wife, it means a de facto Head of State is now in charge. Mugabe should resign on account of dereliction of duty, even though that duty was stolen in the first place.”
MDC Renewal Team spokesperson Jacob Mafume equated the First Lady’s actions to a “bedroom coup”, saying power had been transferred to her unconstitutionally.
“This is truly a bedroom coup,” Mafume said.
“Power has been transferred unconstitutionally to the wife of the President. It appears, like the French queens of old, she is instituting her own version of terror in the country.”
Mafume added: “Under what authority does she ask the VPs to write notes, one may ask? If she is the one relaying the instructions from the President, then he is, therefore, incapable of ruling and must stand aside on account of age.”
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said Grace had illegally assumed the role of a government official.
“It boggles the mind how and why she is bossing everyone around, including the two VPs. Being Robert Mugabe’s wife doesn’t qualify Grace Mugabe to be some kind of demi-god and de facto President of Zimbabwe. Zanu PF should learn to separate the government from the party,” he said.
“This, again, goes to show that the Zanu PF regime is now a fully-fledged dictatorship. Robert Mugabe is the emperor and his wife is the empress. This is why you see a fully grown-up man like (Local Government minister) Ignatius Chombo kneeling before Grace.”
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo defended Grace, saying it was absurd to assume she was now in charge of the ruling party. “I know nothing about such a development. I have not heard of it,” he said.
“I don’t see where it is coming from. As spokesperson of the party, I know nothing about that.”
But analyst Takura Zhangazha said Grace was now certainly the power behind the throne and all in government were now completely at her mercy.
“The First Lady is not necessarily the kingmaker, but it appears that she most certainly is the power behind the throne,” he said. “Any of the official Cabinet ministers and Vice-Presidents and senior civil servants should ignore her at their own peril.”
South Africa-based analyst Blessing Vava said Mugabe was now a leader in name only.
“What it shows is that Mugabe is no longer in charge of running the country. He is just there as a figurehead who is remote-controlled from the bedroom by his wife Grace,” Vava said.
“History has shown us that whatever she says at rallies turns out to happen, and she has become a serious decision-maker in terms of policy in running the country. She now decides who should be appointed and who should be fired.”
Mugabe early this year was forced to deny that Grace had presidential ambitions.