ZANU PF campaign posters bearing President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace’s portraits on either side have raised eyebrows among political observers who said the move was meant to confirm the First Lady’s new status as the ruling party’s new centre of power.
BY MOSES MATENGA/JAIROS SAUNYAMA
The posters were printed and distributed in Hwedza constituency by one of the party’s aspiring parliamentary candidates, Aplonia Chard Munzverengwi, ahead of Zanu PF primary elections scheduled for today.
Pictures of Munzverengwi’s campaign posters have been circulating on social media platforms since Monday, fuelling heated debate over Grace’s new-found role in Zanu PF politics.
Normally, party candidates only include their own picture, party symbol and Mugabe’s picture on the campaign posters.
Although Mugabe has publicly dismissed claims that his wife was angling to succeed him, observers said the use of her pictures on the party’s campaign material served as confirmation that she was now a major player in the party. Grace, who is now secretary of the Women’s League, last year said no one could stop her from setting her sights on the Presidency.
At her maiden politburo appearance last month, Grace sent tongues wagging when she, in an unprecedented move, took a front seat among members of the presidium.
Recently, former Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa claimed that Grace would soon be placed at the same level with Mugabe adding she was revered in the party much the same as her husband.
“There is no doubt that she [First Lady] is a centre of their power. She will soon be placed on the same level as the President,” Mutasa said.
A Zanu PF insider from Hwedza said Munzverengwi’s decision to include Grace’s picture on her campaign posters was calculated to assure party leaders that she was not sympathetic to ousted former Vice-President Joice Mujuru.
“This province (Mashonaland East) was regarded as the Mujuru stronghold and anyone intending to contest to replace Musanhu should be clear on where he or she stands and I think she is just being cautious,” said an official in the province.
The First Lady’s political rise last year left a trail of wailing in its wake after she led a vicious campaign that caused the fall of Mujuru and several other top party officials on allegations of plotting Mugabe’s downfall.
She is now strongly believed to wield a lot of influence on some of the key decisions made by Mugabe, including Cabinet appointments.
Munzverengwi is set to fight it out with seven other aspiring candidates in today’s primary elections ahead of a by-election on May 5.
The Hwedza seat fell vacant in January following the death of then incumbent Simon Musanhu.
Mashonaland East interim provincial chairperson Aeneas Chigwedere yesterday said all was set for the primary elections.
“Eight candidates are going into the primary elections tomorrow (today) in Hwedza,” Chigwedere said.
Other contestants are Taengwa Parehwa, Faith Chisango, Nathan Matemera, Brian Nyaguse, Rodwell Zinyemba, David Musabayana and Obert Mutema.