via Will Grace succeed husband? – DailyNews Live 27 July 2014 by Gift Phiri
HARARE – First Lady Grace Mugabe’s formal endorsement to take over the leadership of the Zanu PF Women’s League, is widely viewed as a first step towards succeeding husband President Robert Mugabe if he decides to quit.
While some analysts say she is seeking political power for herself amid questions if she can strike out on her own as a political force, others say she has been thrust into that position as a strategic plan to ensure the interests of the First Family are not unduly disturbed or disrupted once her 90-year-old husband is gone.
Insiders fear she is converting her clout into a personal political power base, possibly eyeing the presidency although some see this as a long shot.
The First Lady helped fire up an overflow crowd that nominated her at her 49th ?birthday” party at her farm in Mazowe on Friday. She was serenaded by throngs of supporters in her northern stronghold.
The event came slightly less than a month from the Women?s League elective congress in August.
Responding to the shrewd nomination by the current Women’s League boss, Oppah Muchinguri, backed by Senate president Edna Madzongwe, the First Lady said she would consider the nomination.
“Asi munoziva kana uchinyengwa ka haungangoti ehe (As you know when you are being courted, you just don?t consent easily),” she said.
Her remarks were comparatively civil in a race that’s become associated with constant mudslinging between rival factions, with both the Joice Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa sides accusing the other of peddling outrageous falsehoods and painting each other as being unfit to run for high office.
Insiders say her nomination was from the Mnangagwa faction via Muchinguri, which is manoeuvring to elbow the rival Mujuru faction and prevent it from unseating Mugabe from power. The Daily News on Sunday has been told that the Mnangagwa faction decided on the Grace plot to unsettle Mujuru’s seemingly unstoppable ascendency to power.
Mujuru did not attend the First Lady?s birthday party.
University of Zimbabwe political scientist Eldred Masunungure said it was a momentous development, which will likely reconfigure lines of factionalism in Zanu PF.
Masunungure said she has not taken power for herself.
?She has been given power on a silver platter,” Masunungure told the Daily News on Sunday.
?She does not qualify for that position given the stringent rules the party has set for itself. It may be part of the dynamics that she wants to be closer considering that the president might not hang around for much longer and if he does, he will not have the stamina to continue to rule.
?If you have a member of the household in the highest echelons, the interests of the household are also shielded from undue attack.”
The flamboyant matriarch has become the symbol of excess during the 34-year regime of her husband, who has also been accused of economic mismanagement and whose rule is marked by accusations of human rights abuses.
While many Zimbabweans live in poverty, the First Lady became known for her lavish spending, although she has recently embarked on a number of philanthropic projects. As she advances in age, she has also cut back on travel to world famous destinations in the Far East to buy expensive fashions, high-end jewellery and other luxury items.
Masunungure said her position was part of a strategic plan to ensure the interests of the First Family are not unduly disturbed or disrupted.
?It speaks to continuity of the Gushungo clan,” he said, referring to Mugabe?s totem. ?We may be seeing the beginning of the Gushungo dynasty.”
However, Masunungure, like other analysts, doubts if Grace will take over as president, although her new post gives her a wide berth to be in the powerful Politburo.
?She will be there to shield the interests of the household now or in the future,” he told the Daily News on Sunday.
?The game plan is to ensure that there is someone who is at the apex of the party.”
Stephen Chan, professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, said he doubts that Grace could sustain a role as an independent political force.
?This is not to say she could not be influential in Zimbabwean politics,” Chan said.
?In any case, it should be understood that, in many countries, first ladies play political roles: Hilary Clinton was the prime American example during her husband?s presidency.”
Critics say she wields power over her husband behind the scenes, and has become a distinct centre of power in Zanu PF that could play the role of kingmaker.
Phillip Pasirayi, an Oxford scholar and international development policy expert, said the First Lady was seeking power not for herself but to protect the economic and political interests of the Mugabes.
?Her elevation shows that there is a group within Zanu PF that is pushing for early retirement of President Mugabe and the wife is being thrust at the helm of the powerful Women’s League to stop this momentum,” Pasirayi said.
?But Mai Mugabe will face some challenges in surviving the power games in Zanu PF. For starters, the First Lady lacks political clout and does not have liberation credentials which are key factors in Zanu PF’s succession politics.
?She does not have a thick skin needed to survive the murky politics in Zanu PF. The fact that she lacks liberation credentials will mean that she will not be taken too serious by some hawks within the party.
“It might be that those people like Oppah Muchinguri who are backing her to take over the Women’s League are doing it for strategic reasons. They want to stop the momentum of the Mujuru faction. They also want to endear themselves to the First Lady whom they think is the one who is now making most of the decisions considering that her husband is too old, sickly and tired.”
In her role as First Lady, Grace has met a diverse mix of world leaders, and is now seeking out political opportunities for herself in addition to supporting her spouse, analysts say.