A SOLIDARITY march organised for First Lady Grace Mugabe by her supporters in Harare yesterday failed to live up to its billing, as it turned into an anti-Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa show, as top Zanu PF officials took turns to lampoon President Robert Mugabe’s deputy.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
Grace’s allies accused Mnangagwa of plotting to usurp Mugabe’s power.
Curiously, both Grace and Mugabe did not attend the event held at the party’s headquarters, with the veteran politician addressing an educationists’ conference a stone’s throw away from the Zanu PF headquarters.
Shortly after getting into the programme, some supporters bussed from different parts of the country started walking out after realising that Mugabe and his wife were not going to be part of the programme.
Several ministers — including Ignatius Chombo (Home Affairs), Saviour Kasukuwere (Local Government), Nyasha Chikwinya (Women’s Affairs), Sydney Sekeramayi (Defence), Christopher Mushohwe (Information) and Oppah Muchinguri (Environment, Water and Climate) — graced the event, but their presence failed to inspire the restive crowd.
The event was meant to express solidarity with Grace after she had been at the receiving end of bad publicity following allegations that she assaulted 20-year-old South African model, Gabriella Engels in
that country, while there were insinuations that products from her dairy concern could have been responsible for Mnangagwa’s health afflictions.
There were posters denigrating Engels, but speakers chose to use the occasion to berate their rivals in Zanu PF succession politics.
Some of the posters read “Masvingo yati Engels is not an angel” (Masvingo says Engels is not an angel) and “Masvingo South inoti pasi ne AfriForum” (Masvingo South says down with AfriForum) in reference to a South African civic group pushing for Grace’s prosecution.
Without mentioning names, speakers said only Mugabe had their blessing to lead the party.
Mnangagwa, still smarting from suspected food poisoning, is alleged to be leading a faction within Zanu PF, commonly known as Team Lacoste, angling to take over from Mugabe.
Speaking in riddles, Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Mandiitawepi Chimene said people eat unripe fruit and then claim to have been poisoned when they fall sick, an obvious dig at Mnangagwa, who fell ill at Mugabe’s rally in Gwanda three weeks ago.
“Zanu PF has a straightforward ideology: One leader at a time and President Mugabe at this time,” she said.
“What we are doing now is thinking he has branches. No, he is not a tree.
“There is no way we are going to respect baba (Mugabe) and ignore amai (Grace) and there is no way we are going to respect amai and ignore baba.
“I once said it here and I am back again that we are not dealing with these things, but they will give us problems. Let’s tell people to be steady.”
Chimene chided war veterans’ leader, Chris Mutsvangwa and his executive, who were expelled from Zanu PF, claiming she did not need the post of chairperson to perform duties.
She said those who claim to be the preferred successor should learn from former Vice-President Joice Mujuru, who was kicked out of the party yet she thought she was the heir apparent.
Chimene said it was untrue that Mugabe was preparing to create a dynasty and hand over power to his wife or family, describing the claims as highly offensive.
“Grace Mugabe doesn’t fear dogs barking outside the yard. We have come as your children to show you that we are with you,” she declared. “We stood with President Mugabe and the love that you are giving President Mugabe is the same love we want to give you.
“We are saying amai, don’t tire, don’t be moved by any machinations.”
A war veterans’ leader in Chimene’s faction, George Mlala, accused Mutsvangwa and his executive of interacting with Zanu PF structures after they were expelled from the ruling party.
In response, guest of honour Chombo promised to look into the matter.
But Mutsvangwa later told NewsDay that Chombo had no business meddling in war veterans’ affairs.
“Too dull to grasp legal precepts, he accords recognition to Chimene and Mlala as they masquerade as leaders of war veterans in flagrant contempt of a High Court judgment,” he said.
“An incompetent (former) minister of Local Government, he has turned urban centres into neighbourhoods of decay and crime. He has no single skyscraper to his credit after years of stewardship of the key ministry.
“He has no iota of appreciation of the role of local and foreign capital and business in a modern national economy.”
Mutsvangwa accused Chombo of soiling the reputation of the police force through extortionate abuse of motorists.
“He has turned police offices to targets of public hate, ridicule and contempt,” he said, claiming the Home Affairs minister harboured his own presidential ambitions.