ZANU PF secretary for Women’s Affairs and First Lady Grace Mugabe on Wednesday raised eyebrows at her maiden politburo meeting when she occupied one of the front seats reserved for the party’s presidium during the meeting where former secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa and his nephew Temba Mliswa were expelled from the ruling party.
Grace sat next to President Robert Mugabe together with Vice-Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko.
But it was the sitting arrangement in Wednesday’s meeting which set tongues wagging and fuelled speculation that Grace was either being groomed to succeed Mugabe or strategically occupied the seat to provide nursing care for her husband, who turns 91 on Saturday.
Normally, the top table is reserved for Mugabe, his two deputies and in this case Vice-Presidents Mnangagwa and Mphoko.
Mugabe sat between Grace and Mnangagwa as Mphoko was relegated to the far left corner away from his two other presidium colleagues.
According to the new Zanu PF top line-up unveiled after the party’s heavily contested December congress, the next in line after the three-member presidium is secretary for administration Ignatius Chombo followed by finance secretary Obert Mpofu and national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere.
In the previous politburo structure, then Women’s League secretary
Oppah Muchinguri came a distant number 16.
Grace succeeded Muchinguri at the December congress.
Addressing journalists after the meeting, Zanu PF national spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said: “Now to the issue of Mutasa, the detailed report by the national disciplinary committee was presented to the politburo, highlighting the disparaging remarks made by Cde Mutasa about the party leadership and his rubbishing of the congress held last December as illegal, null and void. He went further to write to Sadc leaders appealing for their intervention, among other things.
“The committee treated his case as unique and extraordinary and determined that in terms of its rules as the national disciplinary committee, Cde Mutasa continues to be unrepentant and continues to issue statements which are not helpful to himself either. The politburo has, therefore, expelled Cde Mutasa from the party which renders his seat in Parliament vacant.”
Mutasa is MP for Headlands constituency in Manicaland province.
Khaya Moyo also said Mliswa, the Hurungwe West MP, had also been fired for charges ranging from insubordination, denigrating national party leaders, interfering with the running of the youth and women’s leagues in the province, extortionist behaviour and continued interruption of party activities.
“His expulsion renders his seat in Parliament also vacant,” Khaya Moyo said.
Bikita West MP Munyaradzi Kereke and Mudzi South MP Jonathan Samukange were readmitted into the party.
Samukange was readmitted minus his seat which was declared vacant on Wednesday, paving the way for a by-election soon.
He had been elected as an independent candidate.
Kereke contested and won the 2013 harmonised elections on a Zanu PF ticket against a party directive which ordered him to step aside for
the party’s preferred candidate Elias Musakwa.
Another Zanu PF official from Mashonaland East, Daniel Garwe, who contested the Murewa North seat as an independent, was also readmitted after a successful appeal.
Mutasa, one of the longest-serving Zanu PF members, crossed swords with his party colleagues last December when he sought to nullify the party’s congress resolutions claiming the indaba was convened unconstitutionally.
The party also accused him of taking the matter to Sadc and the African Union and threatening to drag the ruling party to court in a bid to have the congress resolutions nullified.
Miffed by Mutasa’s defiance, the politburo last month set up a six-member disciplinary tribunal headed by Mphoko with Grace as one of its members to deal with the case.
Other members of the committee included Patrick Chinamasa (secretary for legal affairs), Kasukuwere, secretary for security Kembo Mohadi and Youth League secretary Pupurai Togarepi.