New chess piece in Zanu (PF) power game

The Zanu (PF) Women’s League has taken the amusement park to a new frontier by endorsing Grace Mugabe to run for its presidency.

Grace Mugabe
Grace Mugabe

The circus went to Mazowe last week where, in a clear case of guided democracy, the thousands of women who were commandeered to Grace’s children’s home were asked to approve her candidature as the head of the Women’s League. Over the years, we have known the organ for lurid wiggling (the Zunza Mazakwatira dance), dramatic curtseying before President Robert Mugabe and wild ululation. But the league has brought extra colour to the circus by thrusting Grace into the front seat.

This latest development is a comical demonstration of how Zanu (PF) uses the masses for the attainment of personal gain. Grace, with no history in active politics outside accompanying her husband to election rallies, seems to be Mugabe’s strategy to sustain his presence in Zanu (PF) and national politics, as the Old Man is fast overtaking his political sell-by date.

He needs someone close enough to continue with his personal kingdom, and Grace is the safest bet as it increasingly becomes clear that Joice Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa, who lead the main factions in the party, may not necessarily have his interests at heart.

Mugabe has of late been left with egg on his face as the two factions took turns to misinform him and lead him up the wrong path. He, therefore, needs a well-informed and dependable advisor who would be able to call the shots within the party and not merely do bedroom tete-a-tetes with him.

As we have seen other founding African leaders try to do, Mugabe wants to continue his legacy—whatever that is—through a family member.

If Nhamodzenyika, his son who passed away in the early sixties as an infant, was still alive, he would certainly have assumed the role that Grace is being made to play today. In face he might have even by now have replaced Mugabe.

It is unfortunate for Mugabe that he was not able to make other sons who would have taken over the dynasty early enough. Robert Jnr and Chatunga came too late and are too young for their father’s jacket.

In other words, what we saw in Mazowe was a culmination of behind-the-scenes shenanigans involving Mugabe and some senior party members, among them the current Women’s League chair, Oppah Muchinguri and Edna Madzongwe, to fortify Mugabe’s personal and political future by shepherding the women to endorse a predetermined position. So, forget that entire hullabaloo about Grace coming in to quell the factionalism that is riddling the Women’s League.

The “First Lady” is hardly the type that would unify chickens in a cage.

There is no history to prove that she can do that, and no traits in her personality to back the claim. The late Sally, Mugabe’s first wife, had the demeanour and flair to rally people together. She was suave and mature enough for people to listen to her, something that I have always strained my eye see in Grace.

Even as she spoke after being offered the post, her language was hardly convincing, a bit immature. She likened herself to a woman being courted by a man, as though she can’t for a moment take love issues off her mind. In the African sense, it is unbecoming for a grandmother-to-be to start talking about courtship in such a manner. But then, this is the same Grace who, with little prodding, started talking about her daughter’s claimed virginity some time back.

Grace is not made of political material. She lacks the grit, firmness and proximity to real politics of the likes of Muchinguri and Madzongwe. I will always remember her as that woman who feebly showed the open palm in Highfield in past elections as her husband clenched a weakened fist. The palm, of course, is the MDC symbol while Zanu (PF) is identified with the fist.

For the Zanu (PF) hard core members, that kind of slip and contradiction of her husband was unforgivable. Come to think about it, Mugabe’s strategy is weak because Grace does not have the steel to survive in Zanu (PF) once her husband is out. The hounds in the party would make mincemeat out of her.

This generates in me a strong suspicion that the notable women in the party are merely using Grace as a chess piece to achieve their own goals, but with Mugabe’s blessing based on his own calculations of what benefit her inclusion would bring to him. There is no way Muchinguri, for example, would hand over the reins to Grace. She is aiming at a higher position.

I would not be surprised if she challenged Mujuru for the vice presidency of the party. She might have been fortified by Mugabe’s recent public statement that neither Mujuru nor Mnangagwa is guaranteed his position. In short, Grace is a willing tool in the political struggles that involve her husband and other, increasingly aged, party stalwarts. – To comment on this article, please contact [email protected]

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