PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace, will, starting next week, hold “thank you rallies” across the country’s 10 provinces where she is expected to thank Zanu PF structures for endorsing her nomination as the Women’s League boss.
The rallies are expected to be used as a campaign platform for Grace and an opportunity to boost her national profile, in what Zanu PF insiders suspect is part of a broad strategy by the First Lady and her sponsors to vigorously push her into national politics well beyond her envisaged role as head of the party’s Women’s League.
Grace recently unexpectedly stormed the local political stage, raising fears Mugabe — not her predecessor Oppah Muchinguri and her allies, if she eventually becomes leader of the women — is her real sponsor, with a view of passing on the succession baton stick to his wife to safeguard family interests and create a political dynasty.
Since Grace entered the fray, Mugabe has come out defending her in subsequent clashes within the party in which she is increasingly appearing like a pawn among the real central characters in the convoluted succession drama.
There are doubts that even if she intends to succeed Mugabe, she will make it when he no longer wields the power and influence he currently has which she is using to bulldoze herself into the Zanu PF leadership structures and build a national profile.
The forthcoming rallies could shed light on what Grace’s real intentions are going forward. A senior party official said this week the rallies will stretch for weeks.
“Amai (mother, a reference to Grace) will be in Mashonaland West province on September 9 for her first ‘thank you rally’ for being nominated for the position of Women’s League secretary,” said a senior Zanu PF official. “On September 13, she is supposed to be in the Masvingo province before she visits other provinces. The rallies are being organised by the Women’s League, but all members of the party will have to attend them.”
Another official said Grace was planning to make the rallies huge in order to confirm her credentials as a serious power contender and colourfully announce her arrival on the national political scene.
Following the announcement that Grace had been proposed by the Women’s League to be their boss, Zanu PF structures have been falling over each other endorsing her candidature ahead of the party’s elective December congress, although there are undercurrents of resistance. Fear seems to be now the major driving force behind her endorsement by the party’s structures.
The surprise entry of Grace into mainstream politics has also provided a new dimension over Mugabe’s succession and intensified the debate.
In February, during an interview to mark his 90th birthday, Mugabe hinted that neither Vice-President Joice Mujuru nor Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa — the two leading rival contenders to succeed him — would take over from him because of their alleged part in fomenting factionalism in Zanu PF, suggesting he has his own secret plans on who would succeed him.
However, despite her endorsement a few weeks ago, Grace has been facing resistance from some party bigwigs who are allegedly aligned to Mujuru camp which has been locked in a fierce battle with the Mnangagwa faction to succeed Mugabe.
As a result, Grace has been on a warpath attacking Zanu PF members aligned to the Mujuru faction.
Last Sunday, upon his return from a week-long China trip, Mugabe took a swipe at some Zanu PF party officials accusing them of attempting to bar Grace from entering into mainstream politics.
Despite her nomination as the new Women’s League boss, reports have emerged that behind the scenes, some party officials have expressed unease about Grace’s new political role, with Harare’s provincial members openly clashing over her imposition on party’s structures.
If appointed by her husband in December to lead the women and also elected into the central committee, she would most likely become a member of the decision-making politburo. Insiders say it is possible she might also be appointed a minister in a cabinet reshuffle.
While resistance to her ascendancy is growing, her supporters are pushing ahead with their plans to ensure she climbs the ladder of power to the top.
“Preparations for her rally in Masvingo are at an advanced stage. We are mobilising everyone to attend the rally which is likely to be similar to President Mugabe’s mega rallies before the July 31 elections,” said a senior official from Masvingo.
“The aim is to introduce her to structures and help her to build a national support base.”