FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe has revamped the Zanu PF women’s league as she prepares for next year’s crunch polls where her 93-year-old husband, President Robert Mugabe, faces his sternest challenge from a possible coalesced opposition, NewsDay has learnt.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
Mugabe’s 2018 election campaign is likely to be hinged on support from the women and youth leagues after the veteran politician’s recent acrimonious fallout with his former foot soldiers — war veterans who have picked Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa as their preferred presidential candidate.
As part of the restructuring exercise, Grace elevated Information, Media and Broadcasting Services deputy minister Thokozile Mathuthu to the position of deputy secretary in the women’s league, replacing Bulawayo Provincial minister Eunice Sandi-Moyo.
Until her elevation Mathuthu was the women’s league spokesperson.
Sandi-Moyo was booted out in brutal fashion together with the league’s treasurer Sarah Mahoka recently.
The changes were announced in Raffingora yesterday by Zanu PF secretary for administration Ignatius Chombo at the burial of Presidential spokesperson George Charamba’s wife, Idaishe Olivia Charamba, who died in Harare on Sunday from liver complications.
“She (Mathuthu) is the new deputy secretary for the women’s league. She has just been elevated,” Chombo said.
However, Chombo could not shed light on whether the league had found suitable replacement for league treasurer and Hurungwe West legislator Mahoka, who quit her post last month together with Sandi-Moyo after they were both accused of misconduct and abuse of party funds.
Mathuthu, a politburo member, has effectively been catapulted to be Grace’s second-in-command.
The women and youth leagues are expected to play a pivotal role in Mugabe’s re-election bid next year as the frail Zanu PF leader, currently fighting endless factional fights in his party, faces a single candidate sponsored by opposition parties.
To date, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai has signed coalition deals with the National People’s Party’s Joice Mujuru and MDC leader Welshman Ncube. The former Prime Minister is tipped to stand as the coalition’s presidential candidate.
Yesterday, Charamba thanked chief executives, editors and journalists from across the media divide for joining him in grieving his wife.
Charamba said he was humbled seeing media executives and editors from the independent media converging at his home to pass their condolences.
“Despite the politics that we play at times exchanging harsh words, there is a humanity that binds all of us. We are one people. I thank all the editors, journalists and executives from all the titles across the land who came to help me grieve my wife,” Charamba said.
Charamba has at times been coy with information and has also threatened private media organisations as he defended Mugabe and the Zanu PF government.
Service chiefs led by Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Constantino Guvheya Chiwenga, Airforce Commander Perrance Shiri, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services Commissioner-General Paradzayi Zimondi and government ministers flew in on two helicopters to pay their last respects to Charamba’s wife.
Chombo, who is the MP for the area, said Olivia was a strong Zanu PF supporter who would use her husband’s money to buy campaign posters to ensure that the ruling party won elections in Zvimba North.
“If she noticed that there were few campaign posters in the area, she would go quietly to her husband and get money, then print more posters, which she would then bring back here to ensure the party won elections. She never asked for a position for that work,” he said.
Chiwenga also praised Olivia, saying her loving and hardworking nature had brought people together.
Others who attended the burial were ministers Priscah Mupfumira, Josaya Hungwe, Faber Chidarikire, Martin Dinha and Mathuthu, permanent secretaries, principal directors across all ministries, business community and other top bureaucrats.