MAJOR shifts and re-alignments have been occurring in Zanu PF ahead of the youth conference today and women’s gathering next week prior to the party’s elective congress in December.
This comes amid uncertainty over the direction the party is taking with the potential arrival of First Lady Grace Mugabe and former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono into full-time politics.
Because of President Robert Mugabe’s influence, who has been at the helm of Zanu PF since 1977, and whose word is as good as law in the party, many insiders believe Grace’s arrival could change the power dynamics in Zanu PF as some influential leaders might seek to align themselves with her.
Already there has been a stampede to welcome her surprise arrival onto the political arena, although it might be to hoodwink Mugabe of their unconditional loyalty to him, with movers and shakers jostling for credit for bringing her on board.
Zanu PF women and youths thronged Grace’s Mazowe farm yesterday to sing praises for her and propel her ascendancy.
Gono, concurrently, is likely to be co-opted into Senate should Mugabe assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill, which was recently passed by parliament.
If Mugabe assents to the Bill, the former RBZ governor, who was nominated by Manicaland province to replace the late Kumbirai Kangai in Senate, will find himself in the Upper House of parliament.
He is reportedly close to the Mugabes and is believed to be their banker and advisor. Insiders think he is likely to work closely with Grace should he join the political fray, strengthening what many say is in fact the Mugabe faction.
Before Grace’s entrance into mainstream politics, the faction led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru seemed to be in control of the succession race, after clinching the majority of provinces in provincial elections last year.
Most of the Zanu PF politburo members are on her side, including key officials like national chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo, secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa and secretary for the commissariat Webster Shamu, among others.
In fact, Zanu PF insiders say Mujuru allies dominate cabinet and the politburo.
But the entry of Grace, whose campaign is being spearheaded by Women’s League boss Oppah Muchinguri and other officials linked to the faction led by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa such as Monica Mutsvangwa, has complicated matters.
“Muchinguri is obviously expecting some form of reward for the work she is doing for Grace. There is talk that she wants the secretary for administration position, which will make her the secretary of the presidium. The President appoints the secretary for administration and she may have done herself enough good by campaigning for Grace,” said a politburo member.
“But she is a very ambitious person and may in fact be seeking Mugabe’s support should she decide to challenge for chairperson or Mujuru for her position. She challenged Mujuru in 2009 and there are chances she will have another go at it again.”
The Mnangagwa faction, which many political analysts believe is in a weaker position going to congress, has been reinvigorated by Grace’s unexpected entry into politics given that she is potentially another centre of power.
The First Lady is believed to be angling for an even higher influential position, or at the very least get people loyal to her into power to protect her family and business interests should Mugabe leave office or die.
“It is quite obvious that she has a long-term plan and will be a factor in Zanu PF’s succession battle. As the President’s wife, she has his ear and one would imagine that she also influences his decisions. So she will be critical in Zanu PF. Her interest is obviously her family and businesses. She is now a factor, particularly if she gets into the politburo and cabinet, which can’t be ignored,” said the politburo member.
“She also knows that she will be in a weaker position without Mugabe and any moves she has to make she will have to do them fast to consolidate herself considering her husband’s age.”
The Mnangagwa faction has been reaching out to influential players in a bid to build new alliances. Mnangagwa, who is the patron of the Midlands Show Society recently made move to award honorary life membership of the Midlands Show Society to Gono.
Gono, however, did not attend the show and a “prestigious dinner reception” on August 1, as he was out of the country.
The honour was eventually given to Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment minister Francis Nhema at the Midlands Agricultural Show in Gweru. At the event, Mnangagwa sang Nhema’s praises calling him by his totem and describing him as Shumba inogocha nyama nemuromo wayo (the lion which roasts the meat with its mouth) after his Shumba totem.
Nhema has of late been associated with the Mujuru faction, and his presence was interpreted to mean he could have crossed the divide, which is common in Zanu PF’s fluid politics.
Senior officials linked to the Mujuru faction told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that although they were wary about Grace’s entry into politics, as they were caught off guard, they were pushing ahead with their consolidation agenda.
“But obviously, our eyes are on the ball. We are monitoring the situation to see what their plan is.”
However, Grace was breathing fire yesterday as she aggressively pushed to enter mainstream politics.