Dr Grace for President?

Grace Mugabe is now in control over who has access to her husband, according to highly placed sources. She is working closely with the Zanu (PF) faction led by Emmerson Mnangagwa to block Gideon Gono, the former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, from political office.

Grace Mugabe
Grace Mugabe

Grace had also blocked Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, believed by many to be a potential compromise candidate, from seeing Mugabe, said the source.

“It is clear now that Mugabe listens to whatever his wife says. She yields so much power over him to the extent that she is now manipulating him. She has virtually ordered Mugabe not to entertain any of the people who have been linked to the succession race, save for Mnangagwa. As a result, the line between government business and party politics is now thin as ministers like Sekeramayi are being denied access to Mugabe by his aides,” he added.

The source said Grace was aiming higher and was already working to replace her husband. But he was not sure whether this had been agreed by the Mnangagwa faction.

“It looks as though Grace and Mugabe have agreed that she becomes his successor, but this may not be known to Mnangagwa. Of course it is possible that Mnangagwa wants to be a kingmaker and would be ready to play second fiddle to her, hoping that he can handle her in the future,” he said.

In a surprise move, Gono was recently barred from filling the Manicaland senatorial seat that fell vacant when Kumbirai Kangai died last year.

Despite initial acrimony regarding Gono’s takeover of the Zanu (PF) seat in the upper chamber, he remained the strongest contender to plug the vacancy. He was expected to do so following a recent amendment to the Electoral Act that allowed a person who had not initially contested—as in Gono’s case—to be handed over the position.

However, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission last week wrote to Zanu (PF) saying Gono could not take the seat because he was not registered as a voter in Manicaland.

Even though this is what the act stipulates, critics have contended that the law could still be amended further to guarantee him the seat, while others said it was easy for him to be transferred from a Harare ward to Manicaland.

Sources told The Zimbabwean that dramatic shifts in the Zanu (PF) power game in recent months had changed Grace’s heart. They said she had decided not to associate with Gono any more but concentrate on building her own political empire.

Grace was recently endorsed as the next leader of the powerful women’s league by a clique of women considered to be aligned to the Mnangagwa faction. She is set to sit in the politburo, the party’s elite decision-making body, after the December congress.

Previously Grace was reported to have gunned for Gono as a possible successor to her husband, President Robert Mugabe, as he had been a close family friend and business advisor.

“It all shows that there are no permanent friends in politics. Since her endorsement, Grace does not even want to see Gono close to her husband. The fact that he (Gono) has been deemed unsuitable for the senatorial seat is a striking coincidence,” said a highly placed source.

He added: “Gono is struggling to talk to Mugabe. This is in sharp contrast with the past when he had free access to his home and also enjoyed visits from the president at his Borrowdale home. Grace no longer considers him relevant in her scheme of things and now views him as a stumbling block.” Gono seems to have no friends in the Mnangagwa faction, which has always opposed his elevation to senator. After the announcement that he could not get the Manicaland senatorial seat, Gono blamed that on his factional enemies.

“It is clear that someone from outside the province is playing games hoping that they can torpedo the Zanu (PF) politburo and Manicaland province as well Buhera district’s choice,” Gono told a local daily.

He insisted that he had transferred as a voter from Harare to Manicaland in early December 2013 and wondered why the transfer had not been effected.

Information minister, Jonathan Moyo, who has in the past been reported to side with Mnangagwa, responded to Gono with an acidic statement in which he rubbished the senatorial aspirant’s claim of factional sabotage.

Moyo has had several brushes with Gono in past months. “It is abundantly self-evident that, by any means available or not, Dr Gono is desperate to be Senator for Manicaland province, a provincial parliamentary seat he apparently mistakes for Buhera district. This explains why he has become so emotional and reckless about his comments to the point of displaying his ignorance of the law in public,” said Moyo recently.

He insisted that Gono’s transfer from Harare to Buhera West in Manicaland was illegal because the Registrar General who did that no longer had the power to handle voter status.

Rugare Gumbo, the party spokesperson, in turn rapped Moyo for usurping his authority to speak on party matters. Gumbo is believed to belong to the Mujuru camp.

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