THE surprise emergence of First Lady Grace Mugabe in Zanu PF politics has rocked Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s bid to control critical structures of the party ahead of its elective congress in December which were expected to boost her push to take over from President Robert Mugabe.
While her faction has control of provincial structures crucial in the battle to succeed Mugabe after clinching support of the majority of the 10 provinces, it appears Mujuru has come unstuck as Grace emerged from nowhere to become the Women’s League preferred boss, ending Mujuru’s bid to have her ally, Olivia Muchena, take over from Oppah Muchinguri.
Zanu PF insiders said Mujuru, whom Mugabe normally consults together with other members of the presidium, planned to influence the appointment of Muchena as Women’s League secretary, but things drastically changed with the arrival of Grace as a major political player.
Although it appears Muchena is the biggest loser in Grace’s takeover of the women’s leadership, it is in fact Mujuru who has suffered a major setback given that the First Lady has emerged against a backdrop of women largely aligned to Mnangagwa.
Muchinguri, who is current Women’s League boss, central committee member Monica Mutsvangwa and deputy speaker of the National Assembly Mabel Chinomona have played a major role in pushing for Grace’s elevation.
Other women like Muchena, Flora Buka, Tsitsi Sekeramayi (wife of Defence minister Sydney) and Constance Shamu, who are aligned to Mujuru, are in a Catch-22 situation because they are primarily loyal to Mugabe.
The rise of Grace has given momentum to women aligned to Mnangagwa, who are now going around the country countering campaigns Mujuru held earlier this year.
Mujuru and her allies, national chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo and secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, have been going around the country in different guises to consolidate the camp’s support base.
Mujuru held meetings with Women’s League structures; Mutasa met the youths while Khaya Moyo met provincial structures.
Mutasa even declared at a Women’s League inter-district meeting: “Those harbouring succession thoughts ahead of Mai Mujuru are daydreamers. May I remind them that our constitution says if the president decides to retire or otherwise, the second-in-command takes over? In this case, it is Mai Mujuru.”
Zanu PF insiders say Muchinguri is set to meet provincial structures countrywide to counter — and reverse if possible — Mujuru’s gains.
The insider said: “If anything, the First Lady’s emergence also confirmed President Mugabe is in control of the party. This move would not have been possible without Mugabe’s knowledge and you must also remember that the president never makes key decisions without involving Mnangagwa.”
Although Grace, together with Muchinguri, was key in Mujuru leap-frogging to the number two spot in the presidium, there has been a fall-out between the two.
Speculation on why they fell out suggests it was after reports Mujuru talked about taking over Grace’s farms in Mazowe when she succeeds Mugabe.