FIRST lady Grace Mugabe this week gave strong signals that she is now running the show in Zanu PF and government behind the scenes when she virtually gave her husband, President Robert Mugabe, a public ultimatum bolder than her previous demands to boot out Vice-President Joice Mujuru immediately.
At separate rallies this week with students and vendors at her children’s home in Mazowe, Grace repeatedly said if Mugabe does not appoint people she and her faction prefer at the party’s congress in just over 10 days’ time, they would gather — this time to protest against his decision.
At the meeting with students on Monday, Grace ordered Mugabe to take heed of her demands by getting rid of Mujuru.
“We chose her (Mujuru) to represent our interest but she has failed. We have had enough. Ivo baba havasi kuzvinzwa here kuti munhu ngaende (doesn’t the president get it that people want Mujuru to go),” she said.
“Varikufunga kuti pamwe zvichaenda nepamwe (Mujuru is riding her luck). Tinoda munhu anofunga (we want someone who thinks). Baba vakasaisa zvatisingafarire tichaungana zvakare pano (If the president does meet our demands we will gather here again). We are saying to the president you made a mistake and now correct that mistake!”
At the meeting with vendors on Tuesday, Grace ordered Mujuru to resign and “go to Dotito”, her rural home.
“… we have a right to say the road you are walking on does not tally with what the nation expects, so leave ….”
“Because sometimes the one who appointed wants you out but does not want to embarrass you. He would just be waiting for you to write and say I have resigned but if you are hard-headed tomorrow you will be ousted like the others … Saka ndiri kuti munhu ngaadzokere kuDotito (go back to Dotito).
In her remarks Grace seems to be ignoring the fact that Mujuru was elected to the vice-presidency at the party’s last congress in 2009, even if she was imposed in 2004 in a constitutional coup when the party amended its constitution to state that one of the deputies should be a woman.
The amendment was done then to block Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had the support of at least seven provinces, giving him an unassailable majority.
Political analysts said the fact that Grace is acting independently confirms fears Mugabe is now a lame duck and losing control.
Grace revealed for the first time on Monday that she does not consult Mugabe on what to say or do at rallies but just speaks her mind out.
“Vazhinji vanonditi hee anofurirwa nana Muchinguri, Kasukuwere naMnangagwa (People say I am being influenced by Muchinguri, Kasukuwere and Mnangagwa). I have got brains. I don’t even have a day where I have approached the President to tell me what to what to say at rallies,” Grace pointed out.
University of Zimbabwe lecturer Professor Eldred Masunungure said there is now “a clear vacuum of power as the centre is no longer holding”.
He said Grace’s remarks suggest she is the de facto president of Zimbabwe.
“Generally, the First Lady of any nation wields a considerable amount of power behind closed doors. This is normally done covertly, surreptitiously and publicly it is never declared,” he said.
“This is extremely odd that she (Grace) is coming out and declaring that she is in charge by giving the president an ultimatum publicly when she does not hold any formal or constitutional position in the party and government.”
Masunungure added: “The scary part is what will happen when she gets formal power when now, without it, she speaks in a way that suggests that she is the de facto president, powerful and influential. What more when she has formal power?”
“It is a fact that First Ladies have power to influence the course of events behind the scenes but to come out openly and more or less suggest that I am running the show even if I don’t have formal power is quite historic.”
Masunungure said her advisors or instigators should be defining her limits — what she can and cannot say.
“These are fearful moments. I thought the president was manoeuvring things in the background but if she is not consulting him, it means the country is in trouble,” Masunungure said.
“Now, they take or wait for instructions from her. She is not the only one with informal power but the council of elders of war veterans. It all speaks to anarchy. It is a moment of chaos within the party and the country.”
Influential First Ladies in the World
There are many First Ladies around the world who are very influential and actually pull the strings behind the scenes when it comes to ruling party and state matters.
Besides Grace Mugabe, some of those who are like that include Asma al-Assad of Syria, Simone Ehivet Gbagbo who was Ivory Coast’s First Lady before she was captured in a bunker, Hinda Déby of Chad and Cilia Flores in Venezuela.