FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe’s dramatic entry into the cauldron of cutthroat Zanu PF politics is muddying her husband’s leadership success waters, it is now increasingly becoming clear. This comes as her campaign to test the waters to see if there is an opportunity for her to succeed her husband is facing growing internal resistance from Zanu PF and outside, forcing her to retreat and be cautious in approach following her controversial outburst in Manicaland last week.
Insiders in Zanu PF say after hitting a brick wall, her narrative is that she is not interested in being president although she is unwilling to clarify her current nationwide campaign trail, where she is making donations using state resources.
Grace’s restrained attacks on colleagues this week also suggests she has been called to order by either President Robert Mugabe or other leaders or advisors close to her.
After giving the impression she was attacking vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa last week in Chimanimani, Manicaland, this week there was a noticeable climb — down in her gearing rhetoric targeting party colleagues.
Grace this week resumed assaults on former vice-president Joice Mujuru, while dragging journalists into the fray through cantankerous rhetoric. At the same time she said she will continue working for the party until 2018.
Close family members this week told the Zimbabwe Independent that Grace initially harboured no presidential ambitions, although she now wants to test the waters to see if she has a chance despite internal resistance.
Questions are still being raised as to why she is so agitated and why she has hit the campaign trail using state resources.
“Grace initially said she wants to be a full time business woman. She said her role as a Zanu PF Women’s League boss is enough and it would give her time to concentrate on her business empire,” a family member said.
“She said there was no bad blood between her and vice-president Mnangagwa but events show there are growing tensions due to her allies Munhu wese kuna amai slogan.”
However, of late, Grace has struck a code with a group of young turks calling themselves Generation 40 (G40), who always travel with her across the country.
Last week in Manicaland Grace paraded leaders of the G40, while Mnangagwa’s faction was sidelined. The G40 group is reportely determined to front Grace and scuttle Mnangagwa’s ascendancy, hence hostility from the likes of Saviour Kasukuwere, Jonathan Moyo and Patrick Zhuwao.
Sources close to the G40 this week said they have no choice but to fight Mnangagwa to a bitter end and the only way to do so is by using Grace as a pawn in a succession race which is like a game to chess.
The G40 members have also been attacking Mnangagwa in the media and discrediting his liberation war credentials and record.
This week in Rushinga, Grace denied that she is leading a faction, buttressing the new party line of denial.
“Where is the faction? I am Zanu PF 500 %. I sleep, eat Zanu PF and my clothes are Zanu PF. I do not understand these people (journalists). People voted us to work and I will just work, work and work for the people of Zimbabwe,” she said.
However, her contradictory statements have created confusion as to her motive in the post-Mugabe era. During a state visit in South Africa in April, Mugabe said Grace had no presidential ambitions.
“She doesn’t have those ambitions. No, I don’t think so. She has accepted the post of being Secretary for women’s affairs and she has got her own charity to care for,” Mugabe told the Guardian newspaper reporter.
This was, however, contrary to what she had said at one of her meet-the-people rallies in the run-up to the 2014 December congress.
“They say I want to be president. Why not? Am I not a Zimbabwean?” she blurted out. Political analyst Simukai Tinhu said this week Grace has always given confusing remarks with regards to her ambitions which at times are in contradiction to Mugabe.
“When the rumours started circulating concerning her ambitions to succeed Mugabe, the nation’s initial response indicates how this proposition was considered preposterous,” Tinhu said.
“But the reaction has since transitioned into a serious phase, she has partnered with an ambitious group of young politicians; the so-called G40 and actors like Moyo.”
Tinhu also said: “But, if she has no intention of being president, as she and her husband have explicitly said in public, then why is she acting as if she is gunning for the presidency?”
Another political analyst, University of Kent law professor Alex Magaisa said Grace is using the same method she used last year to humiliate opponents.
“Mujuru and company were beaten into submission until they were thrown out. This time it depends whether Mnangagwa and company are also prepared to take a thorough beating without fighting back,”
Tinhu said: “Grace is a woman trapped in the structures of her husband’s age and inevitable mortality. And this explains why the First Lady adversaries are not panicking. Grace is political career is surviving on borrowed time.”