31 October, 2014

Grace Mugabe Opens Pandora's Box

by Shamiso Marange

The open secret is out, and the least probable individual has spilled the beans on factionalism within the Zimbabwe African National Congress (Patriotic Front). In a series of rallies she has held across the country in the past fortnight, President Robert Mugabe's 49-year-old wife Grace has attacked Vice President Joice Mujuru, alongside other senior party officials, with accusations of corruption, attempts to topple her husband, and creating divisions within the ruling party.

President Mugabe and the First Lady

Grace Mugabe’s speeches commenced as mere warnings and friendly advice from a ‘concerned’ First Lady, gradually evolving into highly charged character assassination stunts directed at VP Mujuru. Without specifying any conspirators by name, she incited supporters at her rally to shout out that the VP must resign or be prepared to have a face-off with the masses. Recent newspaper reports underscore that the First Lady snubbed handshakes with Mujuru on departure and arrival from the Vatican City where she had accompanied President Mugabe on a private trip.

If we apply the iceberg principle, and assume that if the First Lady's current provocative actions constitute 10% of what we know, then the 90% of the unseen mass of the iceberg that lies deep under water illustrates that ZANU PF is standing on thin ice. After all, it is the protracted uncertainty over Mugabe's succession and anxieties over his age and worsening health condition that has led to this precarious situation within the party and the government.

Apparently, Grace Mugabe is on a roll, recently, she graduated with a PhD from the University of Zimbabwe, an occurrence that raised several eyebrows due to the fact that the educational process was fast-tracked. In August she was nominated to head ZANU’s Women's League, a very influential position that could catapult her into the party's powerful politburo if the confirmation takes place at the party’s congress in December this year. This would make her entrance into politics official.

However, the million dollar question is, why has Grace Mugabe, a political novice, taken it upon herself to expose ZANU PF factionalism at this particular point in time, in the process denouncing the very person she claims she helped bring to the Vice Presidential position?

Joice Mujuru became the first female Vice President in Zimbabwe in 2004. She has earned her place in ZANU PF, having joined the liberation struggle in her early teens and adopted the nom de guerre Teurairopa (she spills blood). Her place at the National Heroes Acre is already guaranteed. At independence in 1980 she was the youngest cabinet minister, taking the portfolio of sports, youth and recreation. Pursuing her high school diploma concurrently with her ‘call of duty’.

She worked her way up the ranks, with the assistance of her late husband and former General in the army, Solomon Mujuru. In 2004, the former General is considered to have pressured President Mugabe to give the VP seat to a woman, a position that should have been reserved for an arguably more qualified candidate, Emmerson Mnagagwa. Solomon Mujuru is said to have been the only person to openly challenge Mr. Mugabe during party meetings and in the process might have ruffled some feathers.

In 2011, the former General died in a mysterious fire on his farm. The circumstances surrounding his death have not been fully uncovered to this day. With him out of the picture, Joice is somewhat susceptible to the sharks that operate within Zimbabwean politics.

The First Lady’s timely or untimely utterances and actions depending on which side of the fence one stands, are on one hand illustrating her immature approach to politics and on the other deepening the crevices within the ruling party.

Is factionalism her actual agenda or is she creating a platform to propel her own political ambitions? She has confidently indicated that she is willing and able to take over from her husband. Another perspective is that she is little more than a pawn clearing the political field for the ‘silent player’, Emmerson Mnagagwa, who is still resentful of the Mujuru’s because the VP seat that ought to have been his was ‘stolen’ from him. The current Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister is equally as guilty of factionalism within ZANU PF and corruption as the VP.

Grace Mugabe, the former presidential typist, is considered to have excellent business acumen. She has successfully built a huge business empire and, with a touch of altruism, she constructed one of the largest orphanages in the country. It is very likely that her entrance into the political arena is a manoeuvre to protect her affluent position after her nonagenarian spouse is gone. Whether she is laying the foundation for herself or her allies, the main scheme appears to be aimed at ensuring that she preserves the Mugabe dynasty - the business interests. Perhaps she understands all too well that when Mugabe is ‘absent’, she would have to face and survive the scuffle for power and wealth that will follow within Zimbabwean politics. And what better time than the present to safeguard her future.

The party congress in December is one to watch out for. Grace Mugabe’s deeds could be a catalyst for a ZANU PF shake up.


  1. Zimbabwe is on her way to experience unprecedented change of leadership. Since independence in 1980, incumbent president Robert Mugabe has been the only head of state and government and his administration has been so authoritarian and despotic in nature. As Mr. Mugabe is aging and is currently in his nineties there is increasing concern about change of leadership in Zimbabwe in the event of unavoidable demise of Robert Mugabe likely due to natural cause or when he voluntarily leave office as he become incapacitated to perform his duties due to aging or ill-health.
    As expected, Mr. and Mrs. Mugabe main concerns is to secure a successor who will unlikely call for their legal prosecution for corruption or other crimes deemed to have been committed by Mr. Mugabe or sanctioned by him. This is particularly important for the personal safety of members of Mugabe family and security of their vast fortunes which they managed to amass legally or otherwise during the course of Mugabe’s reign.
    I think, Shamiso Marange has provided a succinctly brilliant analysis of party politics of Zimbabwe’s current political landscape. Particularly impressing is her analysis of possible power struggle and political schism that is more likely to occur within the ruling Party ZANU-PF which has become synonymous to Robert Mugabe , in the event of Mr. Mugabe imminent departure from office that will open up a presidential post.
    Usually autocratic or rather authoritarian leaders who are about to leave office because of ageing and poor health but not because of democratic transition of power, their main dilemma and fears is the security of their wealth and their individual safety from possible judicial prosecution by the successor government. Thus, such leaders will do all they can to see into it that the mantle of leadership is assumed by a reliable political mate who will not trigger judicial cases against them after leaving office. So, being a controversial and long-standing authoritarian president, Mr. Mugabe is not immune from such thinking. Therefore, unsurprisingly Mr. and Mrs. Mugabe will work tirelessly to secure a favorable successor. That successor can be Mrs. Mugabe or somewhat a trustworthy political friend. More importantly, Mr. and Mrs. Mugabe will strive to make sure that ZANU-PF retain power. This is vital because since MDC seems to be gaining popularity, and if left to take power and dominate parliament, the Mugabes are afraid that the unfriendly MDC political Cadres would call for their judicial prosecution for corruption charges and possibly for other extra-judicial practices and acts that took place during Mugabe rule. Such, concerns are justified by the fact that in politics, especially in not so democratic countries, if another political party managed to take power from a dictatorial regime, there is a tendency that the successor government will likely prosecute leaders of the former regimes so that their party will gain some popular support and weaken their political rivals.

    Comment made by David Emiliano GORE

  2. First of all, Shamiso Marange congratulations for your clear and interesting article.
    I could follow the points you made and it is obvious that a "dictatorial regime" seeks to maintain his authority on the throne and you don't need a lot of efforts to observe this in Africa. So Mrs. Mugabe is just fighting to prolong the years of the dynasty.
    I also have to agree with David, the fear regarding their safety is indeed a problem to them as you know there is no need to fear when is obvious that nothing is wrong with you; that's evident for those who lead with transparency ( a big problem in Africa but not only). However, this can be solved (or minimized) when the key works correctly and the key is the people while the door is the vote.