FIRST Lady, Grace Mugabe, Wednesday declared that she would continue her shellacking political crusades until the 2018 general elections.
She was addressing thousands of Zanu(PF) supporters during a rally at Chimhanda shopping centre in Rushinga.
She poured scorn at party bigwigs reportedly unhappy with her phenomenal political rise, saying she would fight until “your fat bellies burst”.
She also dismissed reports that she was fronting a faction in Zanu(PF) tussling for power, saying these were lies peddled by a hostile media.
The First Lady has recently been accused of leading a new faction that has taken the limelight away from Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, initially perceived as President Robert Mugabe’s heir apparent.
Grace’s faction is said to have bigwigs like Higher and Tertiary Education Minister, Jonathan Moyo, Local Government Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere and Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister, Patrick Zhuwao.
Interestingly, the First Lady absolved the trio, who played the leading role in the political demise of former vice president, Joice Mujuru last year, of fanning factionalism as alleged by critics, saying they were just supporters of President Mugabe.
“I live with a great hero in my house and I work with great heroes. How then can I be a leader of a faction? I support President Mugabe. We support the President together and therefore, there is no way we can be into the politics of factionalism. I am Zanu(PF) 500 percent. I sleep, eat, drink and dress Zanu(PF). I know only one way, the Zanu(PF) way,” she said before a crowd of party supporters who braved the hot Mashonaland Central weather to attend her rally.
She then taunted some disgruntled party members unhappy with her political activities in the few months she has been into mainstream politics, saying they were free to form their own political party and face Zanu(PF) in 2018.
“I will not stop what I am doing. There are some people amongst us who are not happy with what I am doing. As long as I have the energy, I will continue doing what I am doing until 2018. Manje vachasvotwa kusvika vaputika mazitumbu iwayo (They will burst their fat bellies with envy),” she charged, triggering applause from an ecstatic crowd.
“They are free to form their own parties and contest in the 2018 elections against Zanu(PF) and see if they can win. Many have tried it before and it hasn’t worked. It is cold outside Zanu(PF). Unofamba wakapfeka zijasi masikati machena kana ukabuda muZANU-PF (You will walk around with a heavy coat on a very hot afternoon if you get out of Zanu(PF),” she said.
By that statement, the First Lady meant that ZANU-PF deserters always ended up desperate.
She also warned “errant faction leaders” that they should apologise while there was still time, adding they would fall by the wayside like Mujuru if they remained stubborn.
“You should learn from the example of Joice Mujuru. We warned her and she did not listen. Now see where she is,” said the Zanu(PF) Women’s League boss.
Vice President, Phelekezela Mphoko, took to the podium and attacked newspapers that reported that he was humiliated at the First Lady’s rally in Chimanimani last week when he was called to introduce her.
He said there was nothing wrong with him introducing her as it was the protocol the world over.
Before the rally, Mphoko reportedly also angrily hit out at unnamed factionalists, saying they have no place in Zanu(PF).
Senior ZANU-PF officials who attended the briefing before the Rushinga rally told the Financial Gazette that Mphoko earned himself praise when he openly charged at the factionalists, telling them to leave the ruling party.
“He was emphatic in his address. He said he supports only the President as one centre of power and added that he knew some members of a faction present in the meeting who have no place in ZANU-PF. It was a bold statement from the Vice President,” said a ZANU-PF member.
In his address at the rally, Mphoko reiterated this position.
“I am for President Mugabe who appointed me. When I was appointed, I took oath of office to support him and the country. How then can I turn around and say the same person who appointed me is leading a faction? The President can’t lead a faction. If you are not happy with what is happening in ZANU-PF, form your own party. I had to set the record straight there,” he said.
The First Lady’s latest round of rallies across the country comes at a time when a fresh wave of infighting has erupted in the troubled ruling party as hawks seek to decongest the political arena in the deadly and titillating war to succeed President Mugabe in the event that he leaves mainstream politics.
With the entry of the First Lady into politics, Mnangagwa, who was initially seen as a clear favourite to succeed the 91-year-old veteran politician, is now seen as a distant prospect.
In the eyes of many, Mnangagwa is now struggling to salvage his political career, which appears to be in danger.