FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe is reportedly prodding President Robert Mugabe to appoint her Defence minister in the much-anticipated Cabinet reshuffle after she turned down the Women’s Affairs portfolio for being “less glamorous”.
BY EVERSON MUSHAVA
Zanu PF politburo member Sydney Sekeramayi is the current Defence minister while the Women’s Affairs ministry has remained vacant following the reassignment of Oppah Muchinguri to the Higher Education ministry.
Following her triumphant entry into Zanu PF politics last year where she succeeded Muchinguri as Women’s League boss after leading a vicious crusade that caused the fall of former Vice-President Joice Mujuru, Grace had been widely tipped to land the Women’s Affairs portfolio.
Mugabe left the ministry vacant when he filled other key Cabinet posts last year following a mini reshuffle necessitated by the expulsion of ministers linked to the Mujuru camp.
Well-placed sources told NewsDay yesterday that Grace was giving 91-year-old Mugabe a torrid time, refusing to take up the Women’s Affairs ministry, insisting on the all-powerful Defence ministry.
“The First Lady has refused to be Gender minister. She wants to be Defence minister and/or alternatively Mines minister,” a Zanu PF insider who refused to be named said.
“What we know is she has long hinted and has been finding a way to have control and influence in the Defence Forces.”
Of late, Grace, who played a pivotal role in the annihilation of the Mujuru faction, has become an omnipotent figure in Zanu PF politics and was widely believed to be wielding enormous influence on Mugabe.
Grace last Wednesday set tongues wagging when she occupied a front politburo seat next to Mugabe during a meeting which pronounced the expulsion of former secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa and former Mashonaland West provincial chairperson Temba Mliswa.
Mutasa and Mliswa were expelled only three days after Grace returned home from her two month-long holiday in the Far East where she underwent surgery.
Grace also sat on the six-member disciplinary tribunal appointed by Mugabe to decide Mutasa’s fate.
Mugabe himself confirmed at the party’s December congress that the First Lady was becoming more influential on his decisions when he made the Pasi ne Zanu PF [Down with Zanu PF] gaffe after which Grace wrote him a note advising him to cut short his speech.
“It’s my wife who has written this note. She says I am now talking too much. That’s how I am treated even at home and so I must listen,” Mugabe said then, somewhat divulging that he was now subject to Grace’s control.
However, the period in the run-up to the December congress had already proved Grace’s unrestrained influence in the party after all the people she had labelled as traitors, including Mujuru, were purged.
Zanu PF insiders added that Grace, who is widely believed to be angling to succeed her husband, believes controlling the army would make her ascendancy to the throne much easier.
“Initially, Grace was chickening out. She did not want a ministerial position that would expose her to the wrath of MPs during question and answer sessions in Parliament. But after being convinced that she needed to sit in Cabinet, she has started making huge moves to land the powerful Defence ministry in order to get a certain measure of control of the armed forces for protection in the post-Mugabe era,” another source said.
However, another source said it would be wrong to assume that Grace was demanding a position from Mugabe as it suggested that he would be incapacitated.
“The media should know better that Mugabe is still in control. You cannot really believe that Grace is now in charge. The issue is Mugabe no longer has the energy so much that when he gets into the car he falls asleep. His body is tired both from ageing and the numerous medications. But the issue is not that Grace is calling the shots. She is getting instructions from him, not vice-versa.”