HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF says the formal endorsement of First Lady Grace Mugabe to take over the leadership of the party’s Women’s League, signifying her first high-profile public foray into elective politics, has nothing to do with succession politics or factionalism.
Amid reports the entry of Grace was sanctioned by Mugabe to deal a mortal blow to the factions angling to succeed the 90-year-old leader, Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa told the Daily News yesterday that the First Lady’s entry into the political fray had nothing to do with reported attempts to block Vice President Joice Mujuru from ascending to the highest job in the land.
This comes as the Presidential Affairs minister has — for the umpteenth time — tipped Mujuru to take over from Mugabe, but the president himself recently ruled out both Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The Zanu PF Women’s League on Friday unanimously recommended to president Mugabe the appointment of his wife to the powerful position of secretary for the League at the elective women’s congress scheduled for next month.
Mutasa, who is said to belong to the Mujuru faction, yesterday played down the view that Grace’s entry into politics was meant to deal with factionalism.
He said: “If the women have nominated amai (First Lady), this means it is what they want and there is nothing wrong with that.
“What has factionalism to do with that? I don’t see where factionalism comes in. All I can say is that women want amai (First Lady) to lead them.”
Mutasa insisted that the entry of the First Lady had nothing to do with Mujuru.
“I don’t see how Amai Mujuru is connected to the rise of amai (First Lady). In any case, there is no vacancy in the office of the president, it is occupied by Cde Mugabe,” Mutasa said.
“So we cannot talk about amai (First Lady)’s nomination as a bid to block Amai Mujuru to ascend because there is no vacancy to talk about. We will only talk about that when a vacancy arises and as of now, we can’t be talking about that. We will cross the bridge when we get there.”
The endorsement was made following her 49th birthday party held at her farm in Mazowe. She won a ringing endorsement from the country’s 10 provinces.
Outgoing Women’s League boss, Oppah Muchinguri, made the shock announcement, and was backed by Senate president Edna Madzongwe.
While Muchinguri could not comment yesterday as she was tied up at a provincial coordinating committee meeting, she is said to belong to the Mnangagwa faction. She told the Mazowe meeting last Friday that when the late First Lady Sally Mugabe led the Women’s League, factionalism was kept in check, and called on the First Lady to step into her post.
Muchinguri’s backing of Grace has spawned speculation that it was a shrewd attempt by the Mnangagwa faction to scuttle Mujuru’s bid for the presidency.
With the ex-Defence strongman locked in a perpetual succession duel with Mujuru, the Chirimanzu-Zibagwe MP has been touted as one of the leading contenders to take over from Mugabe — but Mutasa has previously said Mnangagwa was a distant number 14 and far beyond the perking order of making it into the presidium.
And with Mugabe staunchly refusing to name anyone as his successor, other names have cropped up and these include ex-Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono, and Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi.
In a recent interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, Mugabe clearly stated that he may not contest the 2018 election and “the people would have to decide on his successor” — although he has not made that decision yet.