THE just-ended Zanu PF congress all but showed First Lady Grace Mugabe is now running the show in Zanu PF and government behind the scenes, and her demands have all been met after her husband President Robert Mugabe bowed down to her public ultimatum to boot out Vice-President Joice Mujuru.
Mugabe, 90, is showing more and more signs of being erratic suggesting he is no longer up to the task of running the country.
Grace has apparently stepped into that vacuum to assert herself while daring controlling her husband even in public.
Evidence of this was there for all to see during the congress held from December 2-7.
Last Saturday Mugabe got carried away when he took to the stage to dissolve the Zanu PF central committee and started lecturing delegates about the liberation struggle. Grace intervened by writing a note advising him to take his seat, but after reading the note, he announced to delegates that his wife had advised to stop talking, leaving her embarrassed.
“My wife has written a note; she says I’m talking too much. That’s how I am treated even at home, so I must listen,” he said.
Besides revealing that Grace was running the show at his house and now in the party, Mugabe also showed that he had no control over Grace when she forced him to call for a rerun of the central committee elections for Mashonaland East province.
This was after Grace vehemently rejected the list of members that was presented to congress by former chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo.
There was a verbal exchange between Mugabe and Grace, who were seated at the high table, with Grace expressing strong disapproval of the announced names, eventually forcing Mugabe to call for a rerun on Tuesday.
The clash left delegates stunned while former chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo intervened to calm the two down.
In line with Grace’s demands, Mugabe has now dismissed Mujuru from government along with eight ministers, as the Zanu PF leader reshuffles cabinet.
The ministers sent packing are ICT minister Webster Shamu, Minister of State for Mashonaland East province Simbaneuta Mudarikwa, Indigenisation minister Francis Nhema, Higher and Tertiary Education minister Olivia Muchena, Labour and Public Service minister Nicholas Goche, Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa, Energy minister Dzikamai Mavhaire and his deputy Munacho Mutezo.
At separate rallies countrywide and at her children’s home in Mazowe, Grace repeatedly vowed if Mugabe does not appoint people she and her faction prefer at the party’s congress they would gather — this time to protest against his decision.
Political analysts said the fact that Grace is acting independently confirms fears Mugabe is now a lame duck and losing control.
Grace revealed for the first time during her recent meetings that she does not consult Mugabe on what to say or do at rallies but just speaks her mind out.
University of Zimbabwe lecturer Professor Eldred Masunungure said there is now “a clear vacuum of power as the centre is no longer holding”.
He said Grace’s remarks suggest she is now exercising a lot of power and influence behind the scenes.
“Generally, the First Lady of any nation wields a considerable amount of power behind closed doors. This is normally done covertly, surreptitiously and publicly it is never declared,” he said.
“This is extremely odd that she (Grace) is coming out and declaring that she is in charge by giving the president an ultimatum publicly when she does not hold any formal or constitutional position in the party and government.”
Masunungure added: “The scary part is what will happen when she gets formal power when now, without it, she speaks in a way that suggests she is the de facto president, powerful and influential.
What more when she has formal power?
It is a fact that First Ladies have power to influence the course of events behind the scenes but to come out openly and more or less suggest that I am running the show even if I don’t have formal power is quite historic.”
Masunungure said her advisors or instigators should be defining her limits — what she can and cannot say.
“These are fearful moments. I thought the president was manoeuvring things in the background but if she is not consulting him, it means the country is in trouble,” Masunungure said.
“Now, they take or wait for instructions from her. She is not the only one with informal power but the council of
elders of war veterans. It all speaks to anarchy. It is a moment of chaos within the party and the country.”