By Walter Marwizi
July 27, 2014-On April 6, The Standard carried a lead story: Grace Mugabe eclipses Mujuru, Mnangagwa which for the first time revealed that the First Lady was establishing herself as a new kingmaker in Zanu PF.
To some critics, it appeared as if we had run our imagination wild by suggesting that a growing number of some party bigwigs were now abandoning their factions to rally behind her.
“How on earth could Grace, a former secretary, have enough courage to take on Vice-President Joice Mujuru, a woman of steel who managed to down a helicopter during the liberation struggle?” This is one reaction we got from a reader.
It seemed implausible then that Grace, 40 years Mugabe’s junior, could challenge some members of the Mujuru and Mnangagwa factions who fought in the trenches with Mugabe when she was still a “baby”.
But as they say in Shona, Rine manyanga hariputirwi (time has a way of unravelling hidden things). On Friday, Mazowe Valley was abuzz with women bussed from all over the country to proclaim Grace as their new leader.
Although our journalists were prohibited from covering the event, reports showed that Senate President Edna Madzongwe proposed that Grace takes over the leadership of the Women’s League, a proposal which was endorsed by current boss Oppah Muchinguri and by the thousands of women by way of raising their hands.
Grace informed her adoring fans that she needed time to consult on whether to take up or reject the offer. She however said it would be difficult to turn down the leadership of the powerful league if the proposal was acceptable to the party’s leadership. Don’t read too much into these statements!
If Grace did not have her own ambitions, she would not have allowed the women to congregate at her Mazowe base on Saturday.
By Friday morning the women’s agenda to endorse her for the leadership of the Women’s League was no longer a secret, and the event was part of well-crafted manoeuvres designed to ensure Grace has political power in her own right.
After amassing all the investments in Mazowe Valley, these need to be protected because they will forever be questions over how she managed to build her orphanage and school and where the First Family got funds to set up their mega diary project. So Grace can only be assured of securing her investments if she has political clout.
But there is another way to look at it. Our First Lady is no longer content with preparing breakfast for her husband, choosing the best suits for him to wear, or defending him against “rogue” journalists in Singapore; she wants a seat in the politburo, which is Zanu PF’s supreme decision-making body.
There would be nothing untoward with a First Lady nursing political ambitions. Hillary Clinton, supported her husband, US President Bill Clinton in White House for eight years, and when he left the presidency, she became a senator. A few years later, she sought nomination as a candidate for the Democratic Party for 2008 US presidency, won by Barack Obama.
It’s possible Grace and her promoters may be deriving inspiration from Hillary, who still has a chance for another shot at the presidency in 2016. But America is America, a land of opportunity which is totally different from Zimbabwe. This weevil infested landlocked country is unique; the political terrain is rough, there are no clear rules and deadly ambushes are the order of the day.
Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who deny harbouring presidential ambitions, have been in this game for a long time, and the coming in of Grace will add more drama to the succession issue.
No doubt, Grace as Mugabe’s wife would have an upper hand as long as her husband still maintains a firm grip on the party, but if he happens to be incapacitated due to ill health or old age, the picture would change completely, and Grace could easily be reduced to a nonentity.
We saw two weeks ago, how some Zanu PF heavyweights tried to bar those without 15 years experience from contesting the elections.
Grace never led a cell, the smallest unit in Zanu PF, and the stringent and undemocratic rules would have sidelined her and many other aspiring candidates from a faction that sympathises with Mnangagwa.
Oppah Muchinguri, who is leading the push to elevate Grace, complained bitterly in Mazowe about these rules.
If Grace becomes a politburo member, which is a foregone conclusion, she would join the Zanu PF’s supreme decision making body making her very influential. Those routing for her think she would provide a much needed bulwark against the Mujuru faction. It however remains to be seen how she would match the likes of Didymus Mutasa who are solidly behind Mujuru.
Here are some questions that need answers: What if the same women who congregated in Mazowe wake up one day and demand that Amai succeeds Baba Mugabe? Will Grace be accommodated in cabinet? What if Zanu PF youths demand that Chatunga Mugabe be their leader? Only time will tell