Zanu PF insiders say President Robert Mugabe’s increasingly influential wife, Grace, is dreaming anew about succeeding her nonagenarian husband, with the ruling party’s ambitious Young Turks, the Generation 40 (G40) group, apparently continuing to play a “sneaky role” as they plot to thwart Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s presidential aspirations.
Well-placed sources who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday said “the ever-scheming G40 are encouraging Dr Amai (Grace) to continue dreaming big”, and her recent rants against unnamed party bigwigs, who she accuses of fanning factionalism in the warring post-congress Zanu PF, indicated that she was “being seduced by the Weevils (ruling party Johnny-come-latelies)” in the alleged plot against Mnangagwa.
“You will have noticed that Dr Amai has recently upped her public profile again, which many people say betrays her ambitions for the highest office in the land. Only last week she was in Binga as you know, doing the kind of work that is ordinarily done by either the president himself or members of his Cabinet.
“You will also have noted that State media have started following her everywhere again, after a period where she was in some political hibernation of some sort. It is also not a coincidence that even the broke ZBC is covering her programmes and business activities live.
“Of course, the G40 is actively encouraging her to continue dreaming big for their own personal ambitions and to thwart Ngwena (Mnangagwa). It is known that they (G40) think that if they thwart Ngwena they will then easily coast to power as they are of the view that Dr Amai is only powerful as long as President Mugabe is in the picture,” one of the sources said.
And while both Grace and Mugabe have denied on several occasions that she has designs on succeeding her husband, another senior Zanu PF official said she was “definitely exhibiting her hunger for the country’s top post”, adding as well that the G40, who are said to be fronted by the ruling party’s secretary for the commissariat, Saviour Kasukuwere, are part of the plot.
“Grace is clearly in the game, no matter how much she denies it. In any case, it will not be tactful for her to reveal her ambitions now because she is aware of Mnangagwa’s strength. What has also been missed by many is that President Mugabe is supporting his wife.
“How for example does a mere First Lady commandeer State television to broadcast her activities live without the husband stopping her? To achieve what?
“One can only assume that part of the motivation (for her ambitions) is to protect her and her family interests once the old man is gone. She clearly does not trust other people, especially Mnangagwa.
And she is getting massive political and financial support from the G40 in this project, which is why the new slogan in Zanu PF is ‘Munhu wese kuna Amai’ (which means let’s all support the First Lady,” the politburo member said.
Another senior Zanu PF official said Grace and Mugabe’s plan allegedly involved using the likes of Kasukuwere and party secretary for administration, Ignatious Chombo to push through the First Family succession agenda.
He said while Chombo was viewed as a Mnangagwa protégé in the current factional and succession wars, he was nevertheless “very loyal” to Mugabe, which meant that he would take instructions from Mugabe if he had to choose.
“The party’s structures are clearly meant to prop up the First Lady. In the presidium there is Mugabe himself, Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko. Then there is Chombo and Kasukuwere who both hold key positions.
“Mphoko has openly clashed with Mnangagwa over who is senior, so naturally and strategically, he is on Mugabe’s corner while Mnangagwa is now isolated. This is why provincial chairpersons are being booted out systematically to accommodate people not on Mnangagwa’s side and who are sympathetic to Grace,” the source said.
However, another source said Mnangagwa was “very strong in the politburo”, where he supposedly commanded majority support, and which his camp could use to also remove chairpersons that were not sympathetic to him when the “appropriate time” came. Analysts who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday also said Grace was making it clear that she had presidential ambitions.
“She has inadvertently betrayed her ambitions. If there was any doubt previously, now it is clear she has bigger ambitions. She has elevated herself to the level of even the president and you must notice she doesn’t say only Mugabe was chosen by God, she also says she is God sent,” academic and political commentator Ibbo Mandaza said.
Mandaza added that all the other party bigwigs who had the same ambitions as Grace were “too weak and powerless to call Grace to order”.
“She will not be stopped by the current Zanu PF leadership. They are a bunch of poodles surrounding the old man and none of them would dare challenge Grace. They tremble in their shoes when she speaks,” he said.
But Mandaza was quick to point out that Grace’s current ambitions depended entirely on Mugabe’s continued presence in high office.
“The political dynamics won’t allow for dynastic politics. She is campaigning against time because the dynamics are too profound. It is noteworthy though that none of the other bigwigs are happy about what she is doing and they are quietly hoping that the end is nigh for Mugabe because when he goes that will be the end of Grace and her ambitions.
“And she must know that because if she didn’t, she would be living on another planet,” Mandaza said.
Speaking in Binga where she launched an irrigation scheme on Thursday, Grace savaged ruling party bigwigs who were angling to succeed her husband, warning that the nonagenarian’s embattled deputies, who often acted in his place when he was away, were not guaranteed to succeed him.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure weighed in, saying Grace clearly wanted to succeed her husband.“She may deny it in public but as they say, actions speak louder than words. Her pronouncements tend to contradict her claims that she is not a contestant for State House. She is testing the waters,” Masunungure said.
“Its unnatural for politicians to just want to become Women’s League boss and end there. She would want to go all the way. She clearly has bigger ambitions, only that the time for declaring them may not be ripe because doing so when Mugabe is still there will only make her as guilty as Mujuru.