FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe’s G40 allies have reportedly taken charge of preparations for Zanu PF’s proposed December extraordinary congress where she is expected to force through a constitutional amendment allowing for her appointment as the party’s second female vice-president, NewsDay has learnt.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Impeccable sources yesterday said President Robert Mugabe had, after last week’s tense politburo meeting, immediately set up a steering committee, comprising mainly of Grace’s allies, to organise the congress.
Zanu PF is effectively split between two distinct factions, Grace’s G40, whose kingpins are party commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, and Team Lacoste, which is sympathetic to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
With both the Zanu PF factions jostling to sponsor a candidate to succeed ailing soon-to-be 94-year-old Mugabe, the First Lady’s G40 faction was likely to have the last laugh in the succession race.
“Yes, there is a committee to plan and co-ordinate the extraordinary congress. It is headed by (administration secretary Ignatius) Chombo and some of its members are (political commissar Saviour) Kasukuwere, (Major-General Douglas) Nyikayaramba and a former Reserve Bank governor (name withheld),” a top Zanu PF source said.
“It is basically a G40 group and that is a clear indication that the faction has taken charge of the party and most organs. They are running the show and likely to have their way at the extraordinary congress.”
This came amid reports that Grace’s allies would want Mnangagwa pushed out of the presidium on allegations of plotting Mugabe’s ouster.
But Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo yesterday declined to comment over the matter, referring all questions to Chombo.
“The secretary for administration (Chombo) would know. I have not been advised, maybe he has not finalised the setting-up of the committee, but check with him,” Khaya Moyo said.
Efforts to contact Chombo were fruitless as his mobile went unanswered.
Chombo and Kasukuwere are reportedly leading figures in the G40 faction while Nyikayaramba is also believed to be sympathetic to the same faction.
Mnangagwa’s political life has continued to hang by the thread over the past few weeks following public attacks on his person by the First Family, in a clear indication that the Zanu PF leader might be ready to cut loose his long-time lieutenant widely believed to be the frontrunner to succeed him.
Mugabe last month formed a Zanu PF election directorate made up of mainly G40 members led by Grace and supported by Chombo, Kasukuwere, legal secretary Patrick Chinamasa and youth league boss Kudzanayi Chipanga to lead the party’s 2018 election campaign.
Only Chinamasa is reportedly a known member of Mnangagwa’s Team Lacoste faction. Grace, who doubles as Zanu PF secretary for women’s affairs, will lead the party’s elections directorate that has been tasked to manage, supervise and mobilise for the 2018 general elections.
Mugabe last week agreed to the idea of transforming the Zanu PF annual conference, scheduled for Gwanda, into an extraordinary congress, triggering provincial co-ordinating committee meetings that endorsed the idea at the weekend.
Insiders said while Mugabe’s position as party leader was safe, changes to the party’s constitution were being considered.
“There are two issues being considered: The re-introduction of the woman’s quota to provide for a woman deputy president or to introduce a third vice-president,” NewsDay heard.
While addressing the Zanu PF women’s league national assembly in July, Mugabe dropped a bombshell urging his wife, who had demanded that he names his successor, to “consider the idea of a third vice-president”.
“My suggestion is that we leave things as they are at the top and consider the idea of three vice-presidents to add a woman to the two. The other would be to revert to the original position and amend the constitution, then go to congress. I want you to think about that,” Mugabe said in response to an angry rant from his wife.