DESPITE the widely reported rivalry between First Lady Grace Mugabe and Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the two leading contenders in the Zanu PF succession race regularly meet to discuss various issues. With the succession conundrum looming large because of the infighting in Zanu PF, media reports often project a fierce rivalry between them with no room for compromise.
Events within Zanu PF and media reports always show bitter uncompromising contestation between Grace and Mnangagwa. Perception is sometimes stronger and matters more than the reality. Unless bridged with facts the current Zanu PF situation is fast developing into a conflict which cannot be ignored.
However, Zanu PF insiders say the two leaders have of late been holding meetings to explore the explosive succession issue.
The meetings have been characterised by attempts at political horse-trading — negotiations over succession accompanied by shrewd bargaining and reciprocal concessions, as well as mistrust and deception.
“Several meetings have been held and it seems they (Grace and Mnangagwa) have reached a compromise position,” said a politburo member.
“While it is clear Grace has been campaigning, the sudden shift in her addresses of late, and her reference to the need to consider the constitution in discussing succession issues shows the First Lady is willing to reconsider her options.”
The source also said Grace was worried more by her security in the post-President Robert Mugabe era and her decisions are shaped by her personal and family fears.
“She has built an empire and she needs her security, hence this will help her shape her decision to which faction she will be aligned to,” the source said. “The meetings which she has been holding include veiled references on such issues of the post-Mugabe era.”
Grace has also publicly confirmed she meets Mnangagwa regularly. Addressing thousands of supporters at the commissioning of a housing project in Kadoma, in July, Grace said she regularly meets with the two vice-presidents. In Mberengwa last week Grace went into overdrive, heaping praises on Mnangagwa, at the same time disclosing she regularly meets him.
“Ndanga ndichiti vanhu vanoda kuabuser VaMnangagwa neni. VaMnangagwa is my close friend, my best friend (people want to tarnish my relationship with Mnangagwa).
“Kubva kudhara ndisati ndatombonzi First Lady ndichidya matomatoes kubva kwavari. Vachinditumira zvinhu kuState House, ini ndichivapawo mapotatoes nemanhanga. Handityi kudya zvinhu zvinobva kwaVaMnangagwa.(We became friends long before I became First Lady. He would bring me tomatoes and even send stuff to State House, while I used to give them potatoes. I am not scared to eat anything from Mnangagwa)
“I have respect for this man,” said Grace adding, “When we meet, baba (Mugabe) calls him Emmerson, but we should respect him and call him comrade Mnangagwa.”
Mnangagwa also revealed he meets Grace and Mugabe: “Last night I was with the President and I asked for a lift from the First Lady to Mberengwa. The President then said we should use his helicopter,” said Mnangagwa while giving a vote of thanks in Mataga.
Others though say even if there is an attempt to manage the post-2014 congress, there are re-alignments and developments of new factions contesting for power.
Despite the rhetoric, it is common cause that Mnangagwa and Grace have rival groups backing them, even though as leaders of the factions they meet to look at common interests and narrow their differences.