FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe’s ongoing countrywide rallies have exposed the group that is behind her comprising high-ranking Zanu-PF party officials aligned to Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa’s faction.
Save for a few aberrations like embattled Hurungwe legislator Temba Mliswa, the core group supporting Grace’s campaign may have different views and even agendas, but they are all party functionaries associated with Mnangagwa. Mnangagwa has been locked in a decade-long and increasingly bitter succession fight with Vice-President Joice Mujuru.
With a core group comprising outgoing Zanu-PF Women’s League boss Oppah Muchinguri, Jonathan Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere, President Robert Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao, Phillip Chiyangwa and others, Grace has been to nine of the country’s provinces, except for Mashonaland East, where she will be today, mostly using two military helicopters including the presidential helicopter.
This clique first appeared publicly during the party’s Women and Youth League conferences in August where they addressed a press conference denouncing the Zanu-PF leadership’s failure to mobilise resources for conferences and for their underhand tactics which allegedly included vote-buying, kidnapping and coercion to secure victory for their preferred candidates.
The group went on to mobilise financial resources for the Women’s League Conference in the wake of an embarrassing scenario where Youth League delegates reportedly went hungry after the party failed to raise funds for their upkeep during the conference.
It has also moved in to dispel perceptions that taxpayers’ funds are being abused with Chiyangwa telling the media on Monday that he chairs a group which is mobilising “private money” to fund Grace’s “Meet-the-People Tours” across all provinces of the country.
“I chair the committee on funding the First Lady’s programmes, it is a fund that was brewed during the Women’s League Conference following the chaotic youth conference,” said Chiyangwa during the Gwanda leg (Matabeleland South) of Grace’s rallies.
Grace has been using the rallies to spit fire at real or imagined opponents, making public accusations clearly targeted at Mujuru and her faction, raising suspicion that she could be angling to succeed her husband Mugabe.
Yesterday in Bindura she escalated her attacks on Mujuru to vitriolic levels.
According to political analyst Ibbo Mandaza, the rallies “have exposed the group behind her — the Moyos, Kasukuweres and, of course, Mnangagwa in the background.”
Mandaza, however, cast doubt on the group’s intellectual and organisational capacity to derail Mujuru saying it was not going to be easy.
“It seems the Mnangagwa faction is going for broke, but I don’t see them achieve anything because there is no way they can stop Mujuru, she is through the door already. They are trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted,” said Mandaza.
“If she (Grace) is naive enough to challenge Mujuru, it will be her nemesis. She will lose.”
Another senior party official who spoke on condition of anonymity also warned Grace’s prospects of landing the vice-presidency ahead of Mujuru might be risky unless Mugabe ignores the party constitution and people’s will to impose his wife.
“As things stand, Mujuru already has the support as evidenced by the victory of her allies in provincial elections. I don’t see Grace and her team overturning that despite their clamours to have the presidium appointed by Mugabe,” said the official who concluded that “Grace will only end up as Women’s League boss unless she is imposed”.
Mandaza said Grace had also exposed herself, and by extension her backers, because of her clumsy, reckless and inflammatory statements at rallies.
“She has demoted herself from being a First lady to being a party functionary. Will she be able to say all these things when she becomes a junior party member? If she was someone else, she would have been hauled before the disciplinary committee for attacking senior officials like Mujuru and (Zanu-PF secretary for administration Didymus) Mutasa.
“Who is she and why has her husband been quiet? This shows that he is no longer in charge and cannot control her and the party.”
Party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo declined to shed light on the activities of Grace and the agenda of the group behind her, telling this paper that “these are the kinds of questions that can only be discussed in the politburo and not in the media”, adding that only then will the party’s position be clarified.