FEAR and trepidation has gripped warring Zanu PF factions following First Lady Grace Mugabe’s decision to resume controversial nationwide rallies amid concerns she could worsen an already fragile situation.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
In 2014, a similar series of gatherings led to the expulsion of then Vice-President Joice Mujuru together with other senior leaders on allegations of plotting to topple President Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe has haplessly watched as a vicious internal power struggles for his throne involving his wife and Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa unfold. Grace is the current leader of the powerful Zanu PF women’s league and, reportedly, has the endorsement of a group known as G40, while Mnangagwa boasts of support from war veterans and sections of the country’s military.
After reportedly being forced to abandon the rallies last year in the aftermath of her attacks on the security establishment including startling claims that sections of the army wanted Mugabe’s second son dead, Grace today resumes her rallies in Manicaland’s Buhera district.
Zanu PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere confirmed the rally was on.
“Yes, she will be in Manicaland and we will be announcing the other venues in due time,” Kasukuwere, reportedly a leading figure in the G40 faction, said.
In last year’s bout of rallies, Grace seemed to be ratcheting up pressure against Mnangagwa before they were abruptly cut off. Women’s league treasurer and Grace’s self-anointed spokesperson, Sarah Mahoka, had promised details of the impending gatherings, but was later unreachable.
“Yes, but that is a big issue, I will explain later,” Mahoka said.
Insiders said there was growing uneasiness over Grace’s latest intentions.
“People are on tenterhooks because nobody knows if she will really tone down on her rhetoric or which side will bear the brunt of her sharp tongue. You will understand because she is naturally abrasive.
“Those in Mnangagwa’s camp are scared that she will go after him, the neutrals fear these rallies will further destabilise the party ahead of elections next year, which is the last thing Zanu PF wants. On the other hand, Grace’s relations with senior leaders in the G40 faction, including Mahoka and Kasukuwere, are at best tense,” NewsDay heard. “The rallies could be a double-edged sword for the party and it’s touch and go.”
Political analyst, Alexander Rusero said Grace was inspired by a burning wish to “kill two birds with one stone”.
“The First Lady is Mugabe’s public face at the moment and given the fact that he has been chosen to represent the party as the presidential candidate next year, the campaign for that begins now. The women’s league is also a vital component in the Zanu PF machinery and indeed the intriguing succession issue. Grace might have personal ambitions.
The league represents a great foundation to launch any bid at the top job,” Rusero said. “So the rallies could be aimed at both propping up Mugabe and laying proper groundwork for her for an assault at the presidency if push comes to shove.”