PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is struggling to reassert his grip on an increasingly fractious Zanu PF as the spirit of revolt, triggered by his wife Grace’s hysterical attacks on senior party officials including Vice President Joice Mujuru, grows amid intensifying infighting.
Never before have Zanu PF officials come out in the open in such a manner to slam Grace — and by extension Mugabe — who recently plunged headlong into the party succession fight on the side of the faction led by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Party officials say the challenge on Grace, and indirectly her husband, is an indication many party officials had not readily accepted Mugabe’s wife and were also resisting what they see as an attempt to create a political dynasty in Zimbabwe where Mugabe has ruled since Independence in 1980.
Many Zanu PF officials say Grace’s attacks may have been confirmation that Mugabe was too old to run country and party affairs hence his wife has now seized the opportunity to take charge although the President wants people to believe otherwise.
Grace has accused Mujuru of abuse of office, subversion, extortion, illicit underworld diamond dealings, blackmailing corporates to grab 10% equities and corruption in general. Former PF Zapu members gunning for the vice-presidency, and several senior officials, among them secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, have not been spared by Grace.
Although most party officials have been expressing their displeasure behind closed doors to their party allies, some — among them war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda, politburo member Cephas Msipa, Zanu PF Bulawayo chairman Callistus Ndlovu and party spokesman Rugare Gumbo — have pulled no punches against Grace.
Sibanda, who snubbed Grace’s so-called Meet-the-People rallies which turned out to be a platform to assassinate Mujuru’s character, has been the most vocal Mujuru ally in retaliating against Grace. This week he announced he had no regrets about his stance and was in fact campaigning to stop the “bedroom or boardroom coup” in Zanu PF.
“If you want to find me guilty of not attending the First Lady’s rallies, I plead guilty on that one and I won’t attend unless the programme changes. I can’t attend a function where they say ‘Pamberi ne Mazoe Crush, pasi ne Gamatox’. That slogan is unknown in Zanu PF,” he said.
“That slogan is divisive and counter-revolutionary. I don’t belong to a venomous group and until their objectives change, I won’t be part of that. With its nature now it’s counter-revolutionary and Zimbabweans should stand up against that.
“All able-bodied people should stand up against that. You can’t belong to a group that insults a vice-president of the country. You can’t insult a person like that even if you are from different political parties…”
Sibanda has gone on to describe the meeting in Mazowe which endorsed Grace to take over the leadership of the Women’s League as a “fraud”.
Politburo member Cephas Msipa last week said: “The First Lady has been going around the country insulting people. People are angry, people are bitter, party members are not happy with what she did.
“People from Bulawayo are likely to raise the issue on Friday (at last week’s politburo meeting), after she accused them of dividing the party and being preoccupied with Zapu.”
Grace’s most scathing attack on Mujuru came when she addressed war veterans in Mazowe last week. She announced that Mujuru should resign or risk being booted out.
Party spokesman Rugare Gumbo, a Mujuru ally, however hit back saying Mujuru would not resign as Grace demanded, warning that “no one” would push her out. He suggested that there were some elements who wanted to destabilise and destroy the party from within.
“She (Mujuru) is not going to resign. She remains Vice-President of the party until congress which will decide who it wants. She is the vice-president. No one can push her out,” said Gumbo.
“As a party we have to identify forces that are trying to destabilise us and if identified they have to be dealt with severely.”
Mujuru last Saturday indirectly hit back at Grace at her graduation party in Dotito, Mashonaland Central, where she said although she was not perfect people should not accuse her of crimes she had not committed, suggesting Grace was lying to besmirch her reputation.
The spirit of revolt is spreding at a time the Mnangagwa faction is also escalating its efforts to push Mujuru out at the party’s congress in December using a number of strategies, although amending the Zanu PF constitution to allow Mugabe to appoint his deputies seems to be the favoured strategy.
The Mujuru camp, on the other hand, has been fighting back, throwing jabs at Grace and thus Mugabe.
The camp believes Grace has no locus standi to attack Mujuru and is abusing her status as First Lady to meddle in party politics.
“But the more she opens her mouth and attacks senior officials, the more party officials and Zimbabweans lose respect for her and her husband. This is the reason we are seeing more and more people attacking the First Family,” said a senior Zanu PF official.