PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has given in to pressure from the army and war veterans to put a stop to First Lady Grace’s controversial rallies “because they had become a national security threat”, NewsDay has learnt.
Since her dramatic entry into mainstream politics in mid-2014, Grace has addressed a series of rallies, most of which have been aimed at raising her political profile and create a platform to undo the political careers of her opponents within the ruling Zanu PF party.
Following the Chiweshe rally two weeks ago that seemed to set the tone for Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s removal and potshots at the country’s securocrats, Mugabe — after representations from the army’s top brass — reportedly ordered the rallies to stop forthwith.
“The army demanded that the rallies be stopped because they had become a national security threat. They were being used for nothing, but to divide people as well as a platform for vilification of other people. One of the most dangerous things to come out of these rallies was the ethnic rant by Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko. That was a very low point,” an insider said.
Hurungwe East MP Sarah Mahoka — who seemed to have taken over the position of “head agitator” for the ambitious G40 faction — yesterday refused to comment.
“I am not the person, find him and talk to him. If you do not know him, call the party headquarters,” Mahoka said sarcastically.
Quizzed on why she would not comment when in the past few weeks she had been speaking on behalf of the Zanu PF Women’s League in which she serves as secretary for finance, Mahoka retorted: “When I said those things I was doing it for myself and not for anyone.”
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo referred questions to Women’s League deputy secretary Eunice Sandi-Moyo.
“That will be under the Women’s League, I would not know if they have any programmes coming,” Khaya Moyo said.
Sandi-Moyo, Grace’s deputy in the Women’s League, said there were no planned rallies.
“Not that I know of, we will give you information if there is any programme,” she said.
Information ministry principal director Regis Chikowore also refused to comment on the matter when contacted for comment yesterday.
“Please do not abuse me and do not abuse the President. How do you expect me to comment on hearsay?” Chikowore said before dropping the call.
Reports last week indicated Grace was planning a rally in Manicaland’s Buhera district at which “Mnangagwa will be finished” with another slated for Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo’s Tsholotsho North constituency as well as Bulawayo between then and this week.
At the Chiweshe gathering, Mphoko gushed: “We hear some people think after Mugabe, a Zezuru, there will be a Karanga leader. It is not going to happen.” The remark attracted condemnation across Zanu PF circles.
The security chiefs were said to have convinced Mugabe that the nation was in danger of disintegration if the rallies were allowed to continue particularly given the fact that “they were being used by the G40 (Generation 40) faction to further its interests against the broader national interests”.
The G40 faction — reportedly fronted by First Lady Grace — has in the past few months been angling for Mnangagwa’s removal from his positions as VP both at party and government level.
Last night, it was understood that hundreds of T-shirts with the VP’s portrait were printed. The T-shirts would reportedly be distributed to delegates at the President’s birthday bash to portray Mnangagwa as “a power-hungry person” as a way to infuriate Mugabe.
Mnangagwa was elevated into the presidium following former Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s removal on allegations that she wanted to depose Mugabe by foul means.
But before the ruling party could heal the wounds of Mujuru’s unceremonious removal, a group of Young Turks that reportedly includes national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and Moyo began plotting for Mnangagwa’s political demise.
With Grace having used rallies to force Mugabe’s hand in Mujuru’s removal, the same modus operandi seemed to have been proposed in the Mnangagwa case, but it appeared to have hit troubled waters after apparent resistance from the army and war veterans.