FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe has overhauled her entire security team amid growing suspicion and insecurity caused by Zanu PF factional tensions and endless intra-party squabbling emanating from President Robert Mugabe’s unresolved succession question.
The sweeping changes, which occurred in December, saw Grace’s long-serving and most experienced aides Albert Mujuru and Max Mapfumo falling by the wayside. Grace also got rid of her entire close security personnel numbering up to 10.
Grace’s security team is now led by a senior security aide known as Mubvakure, who was among the aides rejected by Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2015.
Mubvakure is leading a team which includes low-level officers from the Police Protection Unit (PPU).
Mapfumo was reportedly axed for failing to intervene when Robert Mugabe Jr was involved in a scuffle in a night club in Dubai last year.
The incident saw a furious Grace questioning his loyalty.
Mujuru was removed under the pretext of disciplinary action in the aftermath of an accident he was involved in on November 7 last year.
He allegedly drove through a red traffic light at the intersection of Samora Machel and Glenara Avenue in Harare.
Mujuru was said to have hit a car which was in the intersection, leaving the driver injured.
A source in the security sector revealed that, other than the personal circumstances, the changes were informed by “political rather than professional reasons.”
“The major reason why the changes occurred is because the First Lady and those around her believe her team could have been infiltrated by her political rivals. She suspected that some members of her team were giving her rivals information about her movements, meetings, personal and family business deals, among other information,” said an official.
“It could have been paranoia on her part, but she had become sceptical of some of her aides’ loyalties. The aides were however given the impression that the changes were instigated by their bosses as part of routine redeployments, but the fact is that Grace no longer trusted them although some had served her for up to 20 years.”
Grace is a key member of the G40 faction, which is engaged in a bitter war of attrition with a faction led by Mnangagwa over Mugabe’s succession. Mnangagwa is considered by some to be in pole position in the succession race, but the G40 faction is banking on Grace’s proximity to Mugabe to upstage him.
Grace believes some of her aides have been spying on her and her family on behalf of the Mnangagwa faction, hence the wholesome changes.
Officials revealed that some of the former aides have been negatively affected by the redeployments.
“The comrades have also lost big allowances and have been deprived of their luxurious lifestyles. They were living large and making a lot of money from allowances they received from accompanying the First Lady on her numerous trips,” said an official.
Mugabe and Grace are known globe-trotters. Grace has a particular liking for China and Dubai, where the Mugabes are renting a 10-bedroomed upmarket and luxurious villa in Emirates Hills, at a cost of about US$500 000 a year.
Grace’s decision to change her aides, said government officials, was confirmation that the Central Intelligence Organisation and other security agencies have become entangled in the country’s succession politics.
Her decision to rope in the PPU, which does not provide close security, but guards homes of senior government officials and judges, is seen as confirmation that she believes that the CIO is largely working for Mnangagwa.
Grace is close to Zimbabwe Republic Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, who is said to be anti-Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa also rejected a number of his aides in 2015 after questioning their loyalty. He argued that most of the aides assigned to him had in the past been either deployed to provide security to former vice-president Joice Mujuru or her allies.
Other than Mubvakure, those rejected by the Vice-President nclude Tendai (DIO in charge of Vice-President’s Office) as well as close security aides Chigova, Mageza, Nhire, Bhenyu, Jarawana, Kamurani, Kaitano, Nyamukowo, Chokururama, Chivhunga and Chimire.