WHEN former war veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda last October warned of a “bedroom coup” brewing in Zanu PF ahead of the party’s acrimonious December congress, his remarks could have simply been dismissed as polemics in an intensifying succession battle.
Editor’s Memo by Dumisani Muleya
However, those discerning immediately realised what he was talking about and started watching the developments closely as President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace stormed the political scene from nowhere, wreaking havoc and inflicting serious political casualties on the former vice-president Joice Mujuru and her faction.
In fact, Grace — using her now widely acknowledged influence over Mugabe at home and in the office — did something unthinkable: ousted a liberation struggle stalwart and precipitated unprecedented political purges in the party’s history.
At the height of succession-fuelled factionalism and infighting, Sibanda threatened that real war veterans would resist Grace’s “a bedroom or boardroom coup”.
Little did he know that a political tsunami was coming to sweep Mujuru and her allies away in a devastating tidal surge that could well change Zimbabwe’s course of history.
“I am not going to allow any coup both in the boardroom and in the bedroom,” Sibanda thundered as the Zanu PF power struggle escalated.
Despite attempts to shore up Mugabe’s faltering grip by creating “one centre of power”, in some antiquated thinking reminiscent of Zanu PF’s one-party state and authoritarian agenda of the 1980s, the succession issue did not go away. So long as Mugabe remains ensconced in power, the problem will not disappear. He is the root cause and now symbolises all that is wrong with his party and Zimbabwe.
However, the most open and loudest admission that Grace’s “bedroom coup” has succeeded and could well open the path for her to succeed Mugabe came this week when she, either by design or accident, arrogantly suggested she is now the kingmaker or the puppet-master behind the current regime.
Speaking during a ground-breaking ceremony for the Macsherp Housing Scheme in Kadoma on Wednesday, Grace — not in government and thus has no formal executive functions or authority — disclosed how she controls and sets the agenda for appointed Vice-Presidents, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko who report to her.
This clearly suggests Grace is now either projecting herself as a kingmaker — someone exercising influence on Mugabe’s succession, without being a candidate herself — or a presidential hopeful. She is using her bedroom power to influence her husband’s succession process whichever way.
After having succeeded beyond her wildest dreams in removing the powerful Mujuru and her allies, Grace now seems unstoppable and could be a wild card in the succession race.
“They (vice-presidents) know that they must sit down with Amai to discuss about developmental issues. I support that. VP Mnangagwa, I support that and am sure you have lost count the number of meetings we have had,” she boastfully said.
“This never happened in the past as there was a woman who wore dresses like me (Mujuru) but never came to me to discuss about the development of Zimbabwe.
“But I tell you, Mnangagwa comes with a notebook, Mphoko comes with a notebook to listen to me. They know I am younger than them but they appreciate that I am Amai and I have something to tell them about developing the nation.
“They will be taking down notes as I speak. I tell you, they will be jotting down notes as I speak so that the nation moves forward. I would like to tell them that I want that relationship to continue because that is the only way Zimbabwe can develop and become successful.”
This really proves Grace is now running the show in Zanu PF and government behind the scenes as Mugabe battles old age, ill-health and frailty. In the end it simply shows the “bedroom coup” has succeeded — at least for now.