The First Family brawl

THE Mugabe family loves a good punch-up. The old man, Robert, Zimbabwe’s president, has always been a brawler, though a sly and eloquent one.

His specialism is to set up ambitious underlings in the ruling Zanu-PF party to fight so that he can eventually chide them for factionalism and push aside the likely winner, perpetually eliminating potential rivals. The system has worked well since he took over the party in 1975 (officially 1977).

Aged 90 now, he still commands the stage.

His wife, Grace, is a chip off the old block. Aged 49, she recently started a punch-up unlike any the party has seen, forgoing the subtle ambiguities with which Bob, as he is universally known, has often wrapped his verbal blows. Her barbs have been aimed at Joice Mujuru, the 59-year-old vice-president, who was hand-picked years ago by the old man and until last month seemed to be the front-runner in the treacherous race to succeed him.

The First Lady’s attacks have been vitriolic in the extreme, even by local standards, suggesting that Mujuru might be killed and that “dogs and fleas would not disturb her carcass”.

During an ill-tempered cross-country tour, involving 10 rallies, the First Lady repeatedly called for the vice-president’s resignation and endorsed as a replacement the 76-year-old Justice minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa, one of the party’s hard men.

In 2004 the former spymaster was himself purged as the party’s prospective number two under similar circumstances.

Then, as now, the rank-and-file had started to glance past the president toward possible successors.

In the case of Mujuru, the axe seems to be coming down very publicly. Front pages of official newspapers amplified the First Lady’s accusations of corruption, leading many to suspect that Mugabe, who stayed quiet in public, had given his consent.

A new twist in the old game is the suggestion that Grace could succeed to the presidency, establishing a Mugabe dynasty.

She was recently made head of the party’s Women’s League, putting her in the politburo. She was also awarded a dodgy doctorate in sociology, based on two months’ study, from the University of Zimbabwe (from the hands of her husband).

And posters of her suddenly adorn public buses. At one rally she asked, “why shouldn’t I be president?”

But few think the former typist, without liberation-war credentials, is made of the right stuff. Countless nicknames attest to the popular distaste she evokes: Lady McGabe, DisGrace, First Shopper (for her free-spending habits in foreign capitals). Her recent speeches, seen as unsavoury, over-the-top and unworthy of a dignitary, have further tarnished her reputation.

While the vice-president has avoided responding to the allegations made against her, surrogates including war veteran leaders have returned fire, broadening the brawl. “This is the end game,” says Ibbo Mandaza, a prominent local analyst. But is it? On October 28 the president stepped back into the ring.

He lambasted his party, neither mentioning his wife nor protecting her, but calling for an end to “the war”. Taking charge, he brought forward a party congress in December by a week.

It will settle the senior line-up for the next five years.

The talk in Harare is of new rules for nominations to the politburo, even of an entirely new slate. The Justice minister, who is suspected of complicity in the first lady’s crusade, seems as damaged by the past few weeks’ infighting as the vice-president.

The president, meanwhile, looks and sounds in fine form for his age.

Regardless of who will be elevated or demoted, he has shown himself to be the ringmaster.

Everything must change so that all can remain the same—until the president’s clock runs out and he can no longer defuse the bombs he plants. Investors, who are desperately needed in the ailing economy, are disconcerted either way.

Under today’s regime, little can be trusted for long. Yet what comes after is even less clear. — Economist.

11 thoughts on “The First Family brawl”

  1. Mike Rook says:

    Do not under estimate the First Lady. Unlike most politicians she shoots from the hip telling it like it is without fear or favour. The jibes and cheap shots directed at the First Lady are puerile and futile attempts by frustrated detractors desperately trying to discredit her. Such idle gossip should be treated with the contempt it deserves.

    1. Tozvireva says:

      All the trimmings of political immaturity

  2. mukwerekwere says:

    There’s no way a slut can lead our great nation.

  3. Wezhira Wezhara says:

    Dr Grace never said she wants to be President….Instead of thanking her for exposing VP Mujuru tru colour we before she becomes President You call her a slut and all manner of names??? vachakutongai chete Dr Grace….isu ku Zanu we have already endorsed it kuti mumame muwone kuti Zim haisi yenyu ma MDC

  4. Wezhira Wezhara says:

    Also she studied for her PhD from 2011 pliz stop spreading lies

    1. kudahasnoknikkers says:

      anyone who thinks Grace exposing Mujuru was an act done with Zimbabweans at heart is deluded. Grace is fighting her own corner. Zimbabweans and their problems are not at all in her agenda. So those ZanuPf minions who suddenly see a saint in her and the devil in Mujuru are misguided. Both Grace and Mujuru have looted and are responsible for grinding this nation to its knees.
      Grace is as selfish as her husband holding the country to ransom for their own gain.

  5. The Black Aristocrat says:

    Grace Mugabe, The First Sausage Jockey of Zimbabwe, deserves all the bile that has been thrown at her – an utterly repulsive woman of extremely limited intellect, with a hugely overinflated opinion of her own ability and self importance to the Nation.

  6. Commoner says:

    It is hilarious that to this day our people have not learnt a thing from history. Change is the only constant. This by far is not an endorsement of the mickey mouse opposition parties nor is for the current regime. Given the deep seated roots & all entrampments of Mugabe , Grace could come on top after all she has seen the backside of the most senior citizen. The reality is the president has not transcended mortality. Will the mugabe dynasty sustain itself at the helm, definately not. Dear Grace quit while ahead buy an estate some island where you cannot be extradiated , take your kids there enjoy some quality time with step-dad while you can. Continue on the path you have embarked on, to your friends in your secretarial class they shall not be saved. Dear Mnagagwa , as tempting as it is , as sweet as might sound to be the next president forget about. You want to know wh, you have a truck load of baggage on you (remember the anti-semitic era 1981-7) Dump the idea of living in the state house, take a tour of the world buy an estate in N/Korea for there would be tough times. Mai Mujuru if anything is to go by only the boys in green can walk through those gates. That all stands to be seen if Baba Mujuru comes back from the land of Median or those old alliances can work for you…

  7. Mfanasibili says:

    Dear Editor,

    To be fair, I think you got Emmerson Mnangagwa’s age wrong.

    Surely, the man must be 66 years old, and not 76 as stated in the article above.

    Thanks and regards,

  8. maita says:

    Hey so Emmerson is 76, and will be 79 come 2018 and 84 in 2023 ahh time is not on his side vakomana.,

    1. Taedza Jonga says:


      Taedza Jonga November 13, 2014 at 9:48 am # 

      Am even surprised that at this moment in time we are debating power politics in ZanuPf of all monsters which has brought the country & us its people to its knees..its such a sad situation to say the least when we cant debate how we can help pick this country from the dolldrums it finds itself in..each person on this forum ask yourself for how long we have been through this route. All I am saying is: after ZanuPf/Mdc or country elections/congresses, lets not forget there is a country to run, AND this should be the message we are sending to these morons of politicians in our country..& by the way hasThe Independent now turned to Zanu Times??

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