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.