FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe will next week resume her controversial countrywide rallies, taking the battle right into Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s heartland in the Midlands province as she seeks to position herself in the on-going battle within Zanu PF to succeed veteran President Robert Mugabe when he finally leaves office.
The fresh wave of the so-called “Meet-the-People” rallies will take her across three provinces namely Harare, Midlands as well as Mashonaland East in an intense on slaught starting next week on thursday. The rallies come after a brief hiatus during which Grace did not attend a Zimbabwe Liberation War Collaborators Association (ZILWCA) meeting in Masvingo last week. She also failed to attend an all-night prayer session led by a self-styled Prophet Walter Magaya in Harare last Friday.
Her no-show at the ZILWCA meeting in Masvingo sent the rumour mill into overdrive with all kinds of theories, including claims by some in Zanu PF that Mugabe had moved to stop the rallies because they were serving no useful purpose but instead fuelling internal party strife.
Some party officials aligned to Mnangagwa claimed Mugabe had himself put the brakes on Grace’s rallies after becoming exasperated by the heightened in-fighting her allies are causing. They claimed Mugabe met with her in Dubai on his way back from the India-Africa Summit last week and ordered her to cancel the Masvingo and subsequent rallies.
“His Excellency phoned her to meet with him in Dubai where the issue of her rallies was discussed. He advised her to stop the rallies as they were not achieving anything but, fuelling divisions. He warned her that the Young Turks in the G40 were merely riding on her influential position to achieve their own ends, and in the end were likely to dump her once they had achieved their agenda,” said one source.
“Grace had even taken full advantage of her recent Chinese visit to get a lot of t-shirts for distribution among her supporters. Apart from China, some of the t-shirts were printed in South Africa, with a few being printed in the Graniteside industrial area of Harare. It had been intended that those attending her rallies would be wearing the t-shirts with the slogan “Unconquerable!” inscribed on them, but all those plans were shelved after Mugabe’s intervention.”
These claims, as well as those of infighting , were dismissed as the “work of detractors” by party political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere
“There will always be contestation for power in any political party and the minor differences in Kadoma and elsewhere are because it’s the party all want to belong to,” said Kasukuwere on Wednesday.
“We won’t have party work dictated to us by faceless and nameless charlatans who cook up stories in the comfort of hotel lobbies. Endless cheap amounts of tea without scones are now starting to intoxicate them. Vice-President Mnangagwa is a senior leader in our party and I have total respect for him. We have very cordial relations,” said
Kasukuwere who is believed to be in Grace’s G40 camp of Zanu PF politicians opposed to Mnangagwa’s ascendancy.
Other party sources, however, told the Zimbabwe Independent that Grace’s absence was due to the fact that she was abroad in Dubai where she was attending to personal business.
“The Masvingo rally was not a part of the rallies she has been holding in her capacity as Women’s League boss,” a source said, adding: “It was not that important and so she could afford to miss it to attend to other business as in the first place she would have gone there at the invitation of ZlLWCA”.
Party sources say Grace will resume her national political crusades with a rally next Thursday (November 19) in Mbare in the capital. On the next day she is expected to take her roadshow to Mberengwa district in Midlands, before rounding off her weekend itinerary in Murehwa, Mashonaland East.
The resumption of the rallies will also be keenly observed to see if Grace resumes her onslaught against Mnangagwa who has been at the receiving end of her attacks in the latest instalment of the succession dogfight which claimed the scalps of former vice-president Joice Mujuru, former party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, former secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa and other party heavyweights who were dumped on allegations of plotting Mugabe’s removal.
Grace, who ominously appears bent on clearing all hurdles in her path to power, fired warning shots across Mnangagwa’s bows in thinly-veiled remarks at a politically-charged rally in Chimanimani early last month, warning he could eventually suffer the same fate as his ousted predecessor Mujuru.
“I had said I’m a referee. I will blow the whistle whenever it gets ugly. I’m not scared to blow the whistle. So don’t push me to the point where I have to blow the whistle,” she warned.
“Let us be satisfied with the positions we occupy. I want to remind all those in leadership positions that all of us were appointed. Yes people vote for us, but all those top leadership positions are by appointment by President Robert Mugabe.”
The remarks were in keeping with the pattern of attacks she had made at earlier functions including in Binga in August where she warned that “acting as president does not mean one is an heir apparent. This is what destroyed Mai Mujuru. Do not be caught offside. Play the game well with others.”
All eyes will also be on Gr’ace to see if she will continue abusing state resources for political mileage as she did during her previous rallies in Chimanimani and Rushinga.
Although she is not a government official, Grace handed out agricultural equipment sourced under a publicly underwritten US$98 million loan facility during her controversial nationwide campaign trail.
She abused for political gain the loan facility extended to Harare by Brazil under the Zimbabwe-Brazil More Food for Africa Programme with a tenor of 15 years.