First lady Grace Mugabe’s rallies have sent tongues wagging in Zanu PF with analysts saying they were part of a strategy to clear the path for her further political rise as the ruling party’s succession politics heat up.
The Zanu PF politburo recently banned election campaigns until polling guidelines have been approved ahead of the December congress.
Grace, who was recently nominated Zanu PF women’s League boss, on Friday addressed a rally at Chinhoyi stadium which she said officially marked the beginning of her political career.
She was expected to address more rallies in different provinces. In her speeches, Grace appears to claim that her entry into politics was an answer to the Zanu PF’s succession fights which have divided the party along factional lines.
But some Zanu PF officials were baffled as to why Grace was going ahead with her rallies while others suggested she may be preparing ground for a possible future bid for vice-presidency or even the coveted post of President currently held by her husband, 90-year-old Robert Mugabe“She is testing the waters. Who knows, perhaps you will hear some women at these rallies urging her to aim for higher offices even if it means challenging Vice-President [Joice] Mujuru,” said one Zanu PF official.
Outgoing Zanu PF women’s league boss Oppah Muchinguri, who is moving around with Grace, was on Saturday said to be attending a long meeting.
Already, Gokwe Nembudziya legislator, Justice Mayor Wadyajena and outgoing Zanu PF deputy secretary for youth, Eddison Chakanyuka have tipped her for the party presidium.
Asked if Grace was not violating the Politburo decision, Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo was not sure if the First lady was holding campaign rallies.
“My understanding is that the First Lady’s rallies are not campaign rallies,” Gumbo said. “I am not sure what the programme is all about, but I think it is about her Women’s League position.”
Political analysts yesterday said although there could be a hidden game plan behind Grace’s rallies, the First Lady was on an image boosting campaign to ascertain herself as a politician of clout who does not necessarily have to rely on her husband for political muscle.
Political analyst Takura Zhangazha said her intention to hold rallies might be to ascertain her role as a stand-alone politician, but not the view being peddled by many that she was trying to dismantle Mujuru from her position as VP.
“She is now facing people on her own without Mugabe. As a person who has just entered politics, she wants to prove to her supporters that she is able to mobilise crowds to her rallies, and this will give her proper legitimacy in Zanu PF structures,” he said.
Another political analyst, Brian Raftopoulos was quoted in the media saying Grace’s political ambitions at this late stage of her husband’s life were “symptomatic of the state of insecurity inside Zanu PF”.
Zhangazha said although some people had been whispering that Grace was plotting to compete with Mujuru, it did not make sense because her rallies sought to garner support from all Zanu PF factions for her candidature as Zanu PF women’s league boss and not necessarily the Presidency.
Alexander Rusero, another political analyst, said Grace’s rallies were meant to demonstrate her political prowess and leadership skills.
“As the succession dynamics have heated up, there is fear of the unknown — even that she may spring surprises to become the second Vice-President, but it is politically wrong,” he said. “I do not see President Mugabe making his wife his Vice-President. What I see is that leading the Women’s League is too big a task for her and all these crusades are meant to endorse her entry into politics.”
Wellington Gadzikwa another political analyst said Grace’s game plan during the rallies was to garner support for her new political role.
“There were other people within Zanu PF who opposed her candidature as Women’s League boss, and now she merely wants to strengthen her political position,” he said.
“Grace said she was the President’s chief advisor and she now wants people to know she is a very capable person. When she was offered the position of Women’s League boss, the First Lady said she was going to think about it. What she is doing now is to show people that she has thought about it and accepted the post and is capable of performing without her husband, the President.”
Gadzikwa said the fact that Grace was donating agricultural inputs during her rallies was to make a statement that she was ready to deliver as a leader, especially if her game plan was to ultimately land a post in the Presidium.