THE recent endorsement of First Lady Grace Mugabe as Zanu PF Women’s League boss-elect ahead of the league’s congress next month has raised anxiety in the party amid fears that the elevation was part of her husband President Robert Mugabe’s grand plan to groom her to take over the presidency.
PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI/OBEY MANAYITI
Over the weekend, Women’s League members endorsed the First Lady to take over from Oppah Muchinguri whom they are reportedly planning to catapult to the party administrator’s post currently occupied by Didymus Mutasa.
Top Zanu PF officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said they suspected Mugabe wanted Grace to succeed him to safeguard his business and family interests when he eventually decides to leave active politics.
“The endorsement of the First Lady as Women’s League leader-designate ahead of the women congress has further complicated the party’s succession matrix as that would mean Grace joins the politburo at Congress in December and position herself to contest for the presidency with the backing of her husband,” a party insider said.
“Mind you, former Ghanaian President [Retired Flight-Lieutenant] Jerry Rawlings set the precedent when he anointed his wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman, as vice-chairperson of the then ruling party National Democratic Congress party in 2009. She later challenged the then sitting President John Evans Atta Mills at the party’s July 2011 congress and lost.”
Zanu PF officials contend that Grace’s looming active entry into the political scene might also have been designed to curb factionalism and curtail Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa’s bid to land the presidency.
Mujuru and Mnangagwa are believed to be both angling to succeed Mugabe, although they have both publicly denied harbouring such ambitions.
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In February this year, Mugabe disqualified both Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa from the succession race after accusing them of fanning factionalism in the party.
However, political analysts said Grace’s chances to land the presidency were “too remote” considering her lack of political clout and depth in the party. They said Grace might not survive the rough Zanu PF waters which were teeming with “sharks and crocodiles”.
Analyst Ernest Mudzengi yesterday said: “Obviously, this is a planned move to elevate her into the top leadership structures of the [Zanu PF] party. But it’s clear that this is not a matter of eventually taking over [from Mugabe] because this is an appointment. Perhaps it’s just about her flexing her political muscle in the current situation.”
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said the First Lady’s elevation could be more tied to guaranteeing her interests in the event of Mugabe’s departure. “She does not qualify for that position given the stringent rules the party has set for itself. It may be part of the dynamics that she wants to be closer considering that the President might not hang around for much longer and if he does, he will not have the stamina to continue to rule,” Masunungure said.
Top Zanu PF leaders have constantly said only those with liberation war credentials qualified for the presidency.
Another political analyst who declined to be named said Grace was unlikely to survive the often “violent and deadly Zanu PF politics”.
“This is probably just part of the Zanu PF power games where the different camps are out to unsettle each other. Given that the likes of Muchinguri are behind the proposal, chances are high they are seeking ways of stopping the Mujuru camp in its tracks,” he said.
He added that given the instrumental role played by the Women’s League to propel Mujuru to the Vice-Presidency in 2004, they were probably hoping to do the same with Grace, but there may be greater challenges this time around.
MDC Renewal Team interim secretary-general Tendai Biti said Grace’s elevation was not good for the country as it promoted a culture of political dynasty.
Addressing scores of his party supporters in Mutare yesterday, Biti said: “I read in the newspapers yesterday and I almost cried when I heard that Grace is taking over the Women’s League chair position in Zanu PF from Muchinguri.
“So they are allocating themselves positions within their family — it’s now becoming a family affair that the husband will take this position, the wife this one and soon the children too.
“This Zimbabwe does not belong to anyone. This is our country. So in 2018, one of the battles we will be fighting is to stop dynastic politics. Zimbabwe has a lot of people and it cannot be Gushungo always.”