With the way events are panning out in the fractious Zanu PF party, it is becoming increasingly clear President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace is now not only in charge of the party as her husband grows older, but has also become arbitrary in her decision-making, recent events have shown.
Since her return less about a fortnight ago from the Far East where she was on holiday and had an appendix surgery, three top Zanu PF officials have been kicked out of the party and government. More anxiously are await their fate as the party continues to purge former vice-president Joice Mujuru’s allies in a vindictive process spearheaded by Grace.
Former secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa and Hurungwe West MP Temba Mliswa were expelled from the party three days after her return, while Masvingo provincial affairs minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti was booted out of office a day after the expulsions.
The appointment of Shuvai Mahofa as minister of provincial affairs for Masvingo this week further shows Grace is increasingly calling the shots.
Mahofa, who has become Grace’s close confidant and praise-singer, was rescued by the First Lady from the political scrapyard and given the ministerial post.
A top Zanu PF official told the Zimbabwe Independent on Wednesday: “Mahofa, who is now quite old (74), a constant election loser and out of touch with the grassroots, was brought in by the First Lady.
“Mahofa is being rewarded by Grace for her role during the ‘meet the people’ rallies. She is being rewarded for loyalty and patronage”.
There are press reports Grace is aiming for influential ministerial posts, like Defence or Mines, not the “less influential” Ministry of Women’s Affairs which is usually run by the reigning Women’s League boss.
Even the five-member politburo committee set up in January to deal with Mutasa’s disciplinary action, chaired by Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko, only met the day after her return on February 16.
During her absence, the politburo met twice and an extraordinary politburo meeting was called three days after her return during which Mutasa and Mliswa were expelled from the party. Mutasa was expelled for the disparaging remarks he made against the party in the media and the party’s leadership and his rubbishing of the party congress held last December as illegal, null and void. He was booted out for writing to Sadc and the AU appealing for their intervention in the party’s affairs.
The committee said Mutasa continues to be unrepentant and continues to issue statements unhelpful to him.
Mliswa was expelled on charges including insubordination, denigrating party leaders, interfering with the running of the party’s youths and women’s league, extortionist behaviour and disrupting party meetings.
It was last Wednesday’s politburo which consolidated Mugabe and Grace’s “bedroom coup”, virtually elevating the first lady to a very influential position in the party.
Grace was parachuted from nowhere to the leadership of the party where she now, alongside her husband, calls the shots.
In an extraordinary arrangement, Grace was seated at the top table in a seat reserved for the party’s presidium during her maiden politburo meeting at the party headquarters in Harare, something which the late first lady Sally never did when she was in the politburo in the 1980s until her death in 1992.
Sally was elected Women’s League boss at the party congress in 1989 in Harare. She had been serving as deputy secretary for the league since 1978, when she deputised Mujuru.
During the period Sally was secretary for women’s affairs, the late vice-presidents Joshua Nkomo and Simon Muzenda sat at the top table together with then party chairperson, the late Joseph Msika, and Mugabe.
A former long-serving politburo member told the Zimbabwe Independent on Thursday: “Sally always took her position as an ordinary politburo member and she sat with the rest of us, even though she was the first lady.”
“What the sitting arrangement confirmed was that Grace is neither just an ordinary politburo member nor is she just a first lady, but she is in control and running the party and country together with her husband.”
Another politburo member said expelled War Veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda, who warned of a “bedroom coup or boardroom coup” in October last year, has now been vindicated by events in Zanu PF and government that Grace has staged a “bedroom coup”.
Grace and her clique which hounded Mujuru out of power ahead of the party congress last December have proved to be very powerful as shown by the continuing purges within the party and direction of events.