Grace wants Gono to succeed Mugabe

Grace Mugabe is pushing to have former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor, Gideon Gono, succeed her husband as president when he finally retires, according to senior CIO sources.

Former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor, Gideon Gono.
Former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor, Gideon Gono.

The two families are reportedly exchanging frequent personal visits, and many in Zanu (PF) interpret this as an indication that the latter is being groomed as President Robert Mugabe’s successor. Intelligence sources told The Zimbabwean that Gono’s regular visits to the first family’s Borrowdale home have become more frequent.

They said the president and his wife were also visiting Gono’s Sunlands chicken farm, at Number 2 Luna Road, just outside Borrowdale, more frequently.

A senior Central Intelligence Office (CIO) official said: “His Excellency (Mugabe) and Gono are becoming more and more close to each other (sic). They are visiting each other almost every week. It is believed the President has chosen Gono as his most trusted associate and word doing the rounds is that he feels safer being succeeded by the former governor than anyone else.” He added that Grace was instrumental in tightening relations with Gono, who is said to be offering the First Family financial advice for its expanding business empire that is mostly agro-based. Grace hails from rural Chivhu, which shares borders with Buhera, Gono’s home district.

“The First Lady has a soft spot for Gono, mainly because he has over the years provided much-needed financial and business development advice to her and her husband. He would play a crucial role in building her nest in the post-Mugabe era,” said another intelligence source.

He added that Gono offered a more secure future for the business empire than any other possible successor, adding that even though the former governor was sympathetic to the Zanu (PF) faction reportedly led by Joice Mujuru, his loyalty was mostly to Mugabe, now 90.

“Grace is busy mobilising a clique of party heavyweights who would help position Gono as her husband’s successor – even though there are worries about his apparent lack of clout and junior position in the party,” added the source.

Mobilisation was being done by lobbying senior party members and the “Young Turks” throughout the 10 provinces, particularly those sympathetic to Mujuru, who included Didymus Mutasa, the Presidential Affairs Minister, Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa, Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi and Cain Mathema from Matabeleland.

None of those named as were available for comment..

Mzembi recently threw a bachelors’ party at a five star Harare hotel for Mugabe’s new son-in-law, Simba Chikore and facilitated the newlyweds’ honeymoon in the Seychelles.

“Despite his newness to the structures of the party, Gono can still be catapulted to the top. The president only needs to give the order, directly or indirectly. It would not be the first time a junior has leapfrogged seniors,” he said. In 2004, Joice Mujuru was elected the party’s second vice president ahead of her seniors after Mugabe argued there was need for a woman in the Zanu (PF) presidium.

Zanu (PF) Secretary for Information, Rugare Gumbo told The Zimbabwean that the position of First Secretary was open to anyone –“whether new, junior or senior”.

“That is the position as stated by President Mugabe. Beyond that, I wouldn’t know his or Gono’s intentions,” he said.

In 2004, Joice Mujuru was elected the party’s second vice president ahead of her seniors after Mugabe argued there was need for a woman in the Zanu (PF) presidium.

Gono, who retired from the RBZ in December after 10 years as governor and could not be reached for a comment, is set to be handed a Zanu (PF) senatorial seat after amendments to the Electoral Act that would specify how a party chooses a candidate when a senatorial seat falls vacant.

The former governor is billed to replace Kumbirai Kangai in Manicaland who died in August last year, and rumour is swelling that Gono might subsequently replace the current Finance and Development Minister, Patrick Chinamasa.

Initially, Shadreck Chipanga, the former head of secret services and a senior Zanu (PF) member from the province, was supposed to replace Kangai, but Gono emerged from nowhere to take the first position.

The source, however, revealed that MPs aligned to Emmerson Mnangagwa, who reportedly leads another faction and is the Zanu (PF) Secretary for Administration as well as Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, were planning to team up with opposition legislators to shoot down Electoral Act amendments that would favour Gono.

Mugabe recently said the race to succeed him was open to anyone in the party and Mujuru or Mnangagwa were not automatic candidates. He also threatened to boot out anyone imposing a media blackout on Gono, in apparent reference to Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister, Jonathan Moyo.

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