HARARE – In a statement that has further highlighted the ruling Zanu PF’s deadly tribal, factional and succession wars, powerful First Lady Grace Mugabe revealed on Friday that some party bigwigs are working feverishly to scuttle her high-octane meet-the-people rallies.
Addressing hundreds of Zanu PF supporters in Buhera — as the influential first lady made her much-anticipated return to the rally circuit in 2017 — she said she was being fought left, right and centre by senior Zanu PF figures, including Cabinet ministers, who were against her rallies.
While going out of her way to be more circumspect than she is renowned for, regarding her views on Zanu PF’s ugly ructions, Grace still revealed that some party heavyweights were engaged in deliberate and calculated attempts to hamper her rallies in the run-up to the make-or-break 2018 national elections.
“There are people who feel threatened when we come down to meet the people. They have been writing letters all over to say don’t give her resources, including those that are confiscated at the border, that I give to our people.
“As first lady, don’t I have a right to ask even Cabinet ministers to put together resources for our programmes? I thought I respected them with their positions unlike other first ladies in other countries. So, I expect that they too should do the same,” she said.
“We know they don’t want us to be with the people. But that’s about leadership and now that I am back, and have already started going around, we are not going to stop.
“I have a good working relationship with most of the ministers though, and when they heard that I was coming here, they donated an assortment of goods,” Grace added.
Zanu PF is deeply divided over President Robert Mugabe’s succession, with a faction of young party Turks going by the moniker Generation 40 (G40) rabidly opposed to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa succeeding the nonagenarian, and squaring up against the VP’s allies, Team Lacoste.
The first lady’s rallies, particularly her donations during these mega gatherings, have been interpreted by her rivals within the warring Zanu PF, as confirmation of the fact that she harbours presidential ambitions.
However, Grace has repeatedly denied having such ambitions — declaring instead that by virtue of being Mugabe’s wife, she was already involved in ruling the country.
Grace also let rip at Zanu PF bigwigs on Friday, savaging those she said were angling to take over from her husband — and mocking them on their alleged lack of “leadership qualities”.
In the process, the first lady gave fresh legs to the loud whispers within the ruling party that her husband wants to rule Zimbabwe for life — particularly as she also went on to tell the gathered crowd that if Mugabe were to die, Zimbabweans would vote for his corpse.
She said Mugabe was irreplaceable, adding that Zimbabweans would find it difficult to get someone after him with his qualities.
“As Zanu PF, we have an upper hand, but sometimes we want to throw away the gifts that we are given by God. That man (Mugabe) is irreplaceable. Whether you like it or not, what is in him comes from God.
“We have a problem when our leader is insulted. Hatisikuzodyiwa takatarisa samatemba, we may be quiet but we are watching. The media is being given money to write stories and sometimes they would have been threatened … they are being fed,” Grace said.
“I cannot be told by someone with whom he began with in 1980 that he is old. That is unfair. If you want him to go motobva mese totora over isusu (leave and we will take over).
“You will hear people saying you want Mugabe to continue so that you will remain as the first lady. It’s unfair. Don’t expect me to tell him to retire when there are millions who voted for him.
“There can be miracles. If God decides that Mugabe should go and we put pictures of his corpse on the ballot paper, people will still vote for him and he will win the election,” she added.
In May last year, Grace stunned thousands of Zanu PF supporters who had gathered in Harare for a solidarity rally with her husband when she said Mugabe would rule Zimbabwe from the grave.
“We want you to lead this country from your grave, while you lie at the National Heroes’ Acre,” she said.
Speaking during a rally at Murehwa Business Centre in 2015, the influential first lady also warned Zanu PF heavyweights that she was going to design a special wheelchair from which Mugabe would rule until he was 100 years old.
“We are going to create a special wheelchair for president Mugabe until he rules to 100 years because that is what we want. That is the people’s choice. We want a leader that respects us,” she said.
The Zanu PF youth league has also since formally moved a motion, at the ruling party’s annual conference which was held in Masvingo last December, for Mugabe to be declared life president.
The former liberation movement’s tribal, factional and succession wars have escalated since the beginning of the year after Mnangagwa hosted sacked Zanu PF officials at his rural home during the festive season — with the VP’s party foes saying this was in fact a meeting organised to plot the ouster of Mugabe from power.
G40-linked party officials subsequently met at the Zanu PF headquarters in Harare where they issued a statement in which they called for a probe into Mnangagwa for hobnobbing with the likes of war veterans’ leader Christopher Mutsvangwa and maverick businessman-cum-politician, Energy Mutodi.
Mnangagwa’s allies on the other hand, have been ratcheting up the pressure on Mugabe to pave the way for the Midlands godfather to take over the reins at both party and government levels.
Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabweans have known since the country’s independence from Britain in 1980, has consistently refused to name a successor, arguing that his party should rather follow what he sees as a more democratic process — managing his succession via a congress.