PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has found a new broom to clean up his office while sidelining the dominant Makone family which has been deeply influential in the MDC-T party as well as his personal life.
Report by Wongai Zhangazha
Within a month of marrying Tsvangirai in a customary union in Harare, Elizabeth Macheka has flexed her muscles by pushing for the realignment of the PM’s office, and relegating her husband’s long-time confidants Ian Makone and his wife Theresa for their involvement with Tsvangirai’s estranged lover Locardia Karimatsenga Tembo.
Macheka’s influence has seen Tsvangirai reshuffle senior officials in his office with chief secretary Ian Makone’s wings clipped together with chief of protocol James Maridadi, while trusted adviser Gandhi Mudzingwa and principal director for policy implementation Lazarus Muriritirwa were reassigned.
MDC-T insiders say Macheka is largely responsible for the changes because of bad blood between her and the Makones over their involvement in Tsvangirai’s ill-fated marriage to Tembo.
Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka denied Macheka’s role in the shake-up, saying the changes are realignments “intended to strengthen the PM’s constitutional responsibilities in the areas of planning, policy formulation and supervision of government ministries, management of the Government Works Programme and implementation of approved legislation”.
There are mixed feelings over the changes with some saying the weakening of the “kitchen cabinet” would strengthen Tsvangirai while others felt it would cost him, considering the Makones’ financial muscle and role at Harvest House — the party’s headquarters.
Macheka has also not wasted time in making her presence felt in the public arena.MDC-T insiders say thrusting Macheka into the public limelight was aimed at ensuring her visibility after the distressing and dramatic events leading up to her marriage to Tsvangirai last month. This was also aimed at preparing her for a major political role in MDC-T structures, insiders note.
Just two days after her marriage to Tsvangirai, Macheka made a surprise appearance at a High Court bail hearing accompanied by National Healing co-minister Sekai Holland and MDC-T national organising secretary Nelson Chamisa to show her solidarity with 29 Glen View party activists charged with murder.
Her visit to Chikurubi and Harare Remand Prisons was not all rosy as she endured a two-hour ordeal at the hands of guards.
Not only did Macheka manage to boost the morale of the prisoners, but she got sympathy from the public for her defiance of the system. This was followed by an appearance at the MDC-T’s well-attended 13th anniversary celebrations in Bulawayo where she received a standing ovation.
Prior to that, Macheka donated an assortment of goodies to the King George IV Memorial School for the disabled where she was the guest of honour at a ceremony at which the Japanese government handed over more than US$124 000 worth of donations.
She was pictured playing marimba with the school’s junior band which even Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa commended when giving his vote of thanks.
Party officials said Macheka would soon be rubbing shoulders with a high-profile Japanese delegation expected in the country for a flower arrangement event at the end of the month. This was revealed at a dinner hosted for editors by Japanese diplomats in Harare last week.
Japanese officials confirmed the event but could not confirm Elizabeth’s attendance.
Elizabeth also graced commemorations at the International Day of the Girl Child Network in her hometown of Chitungwiza where she strongly condemned girl child abuse.
However, Macheka has not been spared attacks on social media networks which have been awash with negative comments about her past private life and her close links to Zanu PF, issues which may result in her being dragged through the mud as she wades deeper into politics in months ahead.
Team of elderly women appointed to groom Tsvangirai’s new wife
A TEAM comprising Public Service minister Lucia Matibenga and Sekai Holland has been assigned by MDC-T to “groom” Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s wife Elizabeth Macheka in a move seen as elbowing out his longtime allies Ian and Theresa Makone.
Over the years Ian and his wife Theresa have played an increasingly influential role in Tsvangirai’s political and personal life, particularly after the death of his wife Susan in 2009.
But the Makones have come under fire from party supporters for their role in Tsvangirai’s embarrassing love life.
Tsvangirai has been linked to a string of women and party officials accuse the Makones of playing matchmakers in a long list of failed love affairs which they say tarnished the party’s image.
The “grooming” team was set up at the same time Tsvangirai announced structural changes to his office seen as designed to sideline the Makones from his “kitchen cabinet”.
The Makones are also accused of paying legal fees for Tsvangirai’s estranged lover Locardia Karimatsenga-Tembo who successfully managed to stop the premier’s wedding to Macheka at the 11th hour last month.
Since their recent botched wedding, Macheka has been playing an increasingly influential political role in the MDC-T under the watch of her groomers.