THE return on Sunday of First Lady Grace Mugabe from her two-month-long holiday has reportedly sent top Zanu PF officials into a panic mode with some fearing for their political lives in an impending major Cabinet shake-up, officials told NewsDay yesterday.
BY MOSES MATENGA
Grace is believed to wield enormous influence on key decisions made by her ageing husband President Robert Mugabe, who turns 91 on Saturday.
The First Lady is said to be still recuperating from surgery in the Far East.
Government and Zanu PF sources who spoke on condition of anonymity yesterday said they were anticipating a major reshuffle in both the ruling party and government structures starting this week following her return.
The officials also said the party expected the appointment of new Cabinet ministers and a swift resolution of the disciplinary case against defiant fired Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa.
Grace is in the seven-member disciplinary panel appointed by Mugabe recently to address the Mutasa matter. The committee, chaired by Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko, is yet to meet following its appointment as Grace was away.
“Remember, the First Lady is now the kingmaker in both the party and government and starting this week, there is likely to be a lot of activity as she takes over from where she left after our resounding congress in December,” a Zanu PF insider said.
“Mind you, Amai is the one credited with the downfall of (former Vice-President Joice) Mujuru and her followers both in the party and government. She is likely to resume her campaign and exert her influence in the appointment of outstanding Cabinet posts.”
In the run-up to the party’s congress last December, Grace led a vicious campaign against Mujuru, accusing her of plotting to topple and/or assassinate Mugabe.
Although Mujuru denied the charges, she was eventually relieved of both her party and government posts and reduced to an ordinary card-carrying member by Mugabe.
Opposition parties and political analysts yesterday also expressed similar fears that Grace’s return could spell doom for perceived pro-Mujuru party cadres.
National Constitutional Assembly spokesperson Maddock Chivasa said: “Her coming back means more chaos in Zanu PF as she is widely believed to be the chief principal and symbol of hate and divisions.”
Political analyst Takura Zhangazha said Grace’s return was only of significance to Zanu PF with people who led her campaign to land the Women’s League post now looking up to her for political ascendancy after the purges.
“Within the context of their party, it means those that led the ousting of the former VP will look up to her for the next step and action for political ascendancy in Zanu PF. Nationally, her return will not change anything. It’s significant only to Zanu PF,” Zhangazha said.
“There is no new policy she can review. At least, she can end up in Cabinet, but apart from that, there is nothing much she can do on policy issues.”
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said there was nothing much to expect from Grace, but wished her a speedy recovery.
“However, Grace should ask herself few very tough questions: Why did she have to travel more than 10 000km away from Zimbabwe in order to undergo a relatively simple operation? Why have her husband and the political party he leads allowed the health delivery system to collapse?” Gutu said.
“Why is it that they can afford to wine and dine in high society in the Far East for more than two months at a time when more than 85% of Zimbabweans are living in poverty and destitution and are surviving on less than $2 per day? What is the total cost to the taxpayer for chartering an Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767 jet from Harare to Singapore and back?”
Gutu added: “We are sure that Grace Mugabe will search her conscience and that, going forward, we shall not be observing her kicking hot dust and spitting fire and brimstone against her perceived enemies and political foes.”
MDC Renewal Team spokesperson Jacob Mafume also said it was perturning that Grace was becoming a new centre of power in Zimbabwe, an indication that all was not well with her husband.
“It’s a worrying development which looks like our Constitution is being subverted. Even in the State media, we are told she was accompanied by the President, since when has the President accompanied the First Lady?” Mafume queried.
“It’s unprecedented, the President can never accompany a First Lady and it shows a shift in terms of power at State House. She now addresses (crowds) upon arrival and has VPs, State officials and ministers stampeding to welcome her.”
Mafume added: “We will see continuation of harsh decisions. More people will be fired; there will be reshuffles and so forth. We wonder when Zanu PF will have the spine to fight all this encroachment into State issues by the First Lady.”