Grace's entry into politics no game changer

HARARE - So much has been said and written about First Lady Grace Mugabe’s entrance into formal politics as chairperson-designate of Zanu PF’s Women’s League (WL).

According to some observers, this move is a serious game changer in the party’s internal political dynamics and its deadly succession wars.

One school of thought even wants Zimbabweans to believe that Grace’s entry into politics has already shaken Vice President Joice Mujuru and her supporters — a faction or grouping seen as leading the race to succeed President Robert Mugabe — since it seemingly holds sway at virtually every level of the former liberation movement, including the presidium.

While many believe Grace could be a real game changer with her pending acceptance of the WL leadership, there is also a compelling case that it might not be a big issue after all — at least for now — and based on the following.

Firstly, and as the former British Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson once said, a week is a very long time in politics — meaning it might be too early to say with certainty the level of impact, or lack of, Grace’s entry will have on Zanu PF and Zimbabwe.

Wilson’s statement,  is an antithesis of former Rhodesian prime minister Ian Smith’s infamous “not in a thousand years”, rightly refers to the vagaries and unpredictability of politics as well as the fact that things can change very quickly in socio-economic dynamics such as those associated with Mugabe’s party, and the country.

While the past 34 years’ political experiences under Zanu PF have shown that intra-party dynamics and oftentimes greater national politics can surprise you — as demonstrated by Edgar Tekere and Dumiso Dabengwa’s fall from grace — the rise and performance of opposition forces under

Morgan Tsvangirai also underlines the rough and tumble nature of Zimbabwean politics.

So, who can say with authority how things will pan out in Zanu PF in the next year, for example, when we all seem to have been taken by surprise by the recent push to elevate Grace to the top echelons of the party.

In that vein, the second important point to ponder is that it is one thing for the First Lady to support and play an influential behind-the-scenes role for her nonagenarian husband, and quite another for her to play a hand in politics this way.

If she eventually takes the WL chairpersonship, Grace will have opened herself to rough side of politics, which will fully expose her to robust scrutiny and criticism — in and outside Zanu PF.

There is no doubt that once she is openly identified with certain intra-party interests and factionalism, this may weaken her as well as Mugabe’s power internally, and outside.

Therefore, it beggars the question as to whether the power couple has properly factored in that possibility (in the ultimate succession equation), before she dives full-time into the shark-infested waters of Zanu PF politics.

Thirdly, many analysts seem to have forgotten or are oblivious of where she is in fact currently placed in the party, viz-a-vis the dominant factions pulling the strings within the party.

If my memory serves me well, she played a key role in Mujuru’s elevation to the country and party positions about a decade ago, and at a time that the former WL boss’ perceived rivals, notably Emmerson Mnangagwa, were seen as miles ahead in the pecking order.

So, has this situation changed, and if so why and how?

While we are at it, I frankly cannot imagine that the First Lady is so naive as to have designs on the leadership of Zanu PF and the country after Mugabe, as feared in some circles.

That is unlikely as even Grace herself must know that she has zero political capital — outside her husband’s waning fortunes — to claim such a significant stake at power.

Thus, a more plausible explanation for her interest in formal politics is that she is probably looking at securing her children’s future, welfare and vast business interests post-Mugabe’s time in office, analysts say.

And by entering party politics formally, she is creating the perception that she is an important power broker for whoever may hope to succeed the Zanu PF strongman, which would force such interested parties to engage her in their power mission(s), and hence secure her future.

The fourth point to consider is Mugabe’s own position in this complex political matrix and whether he is actually encouraging his much younger wife to go for this WL job or a question of a cunning, and highly-ambitious wife nudging the nonagenarian down a certain path?

No one will ever know the real story. But while the nation and greater world community have all this to contemplate, Zimbabweans have to bear in mind that the willy-old fox recently pooh-poohed both Mujuru’s and Mnangagwa’s chances, if not pretences, to the Zanu PF leadership, and the country.

“In many provinces we hear of divisions along factional lines.

“It is said Mai Mujuru and minister Mnangagwa are aspiring for the presidency.

“People will choose who they want. It is not just these two,” he thundered rather ominously.

This suggests that not one of the many Zanu PF factions can take Mugabe’s support for granted and that it may be a very long road before anyone is assured of who will succeed him.

After all, the president has shown a substantial appetite for power over the past 40 years, and he is not likely to relinquish it any time soon.

Fifthly, there is another less obvious factor that Zimbabweans have to factor in when assessing the Grace conundrum.

This relates to the opposition forces — probably under the Movement for Democratic Change — might be able to reinvent and energise themselves ahead of the crucial 2018 national elections.

There is no doubt that Tsvangirai, for instance, still poses a significant threat and impediment to the careers, and effective one-party aspirations of many Zanu PF bigwigs.

To that extent, if the MDCs can generate the kind of political momentum that they did in say 2000 and in 2008 — and as observed by Wilson, a week is a long time in politics — there is no question that whether Grace will be or not be in the mix will not matter much anyway come 2018.

The last but not least point to ponder in this Chinese puzzle, is the economy. While Mugabe and his cohorts occasionally mouth off — for the sake of it — that the economy is improving, virtually all Zimbabweans, both Zanu PF and opposition, are agreed that life has become unbearably difficult economically.

If a way is not found to arrest the ongoing and alarming decline in living standards, then Zimbabwe will soon be squarely back to the 2007/2008 era where political allegiance does not mean much, which would again put Zanu PF’s hold on power under threat.

So, to those self-serving spin-doctors desperately trying to tell us that Grace is a sudden and new game changer in our politics, they must feel sufficiently warned.

Comments (11)

Granted that there is some merit in the points raised in the article, my only contention is that who knows, this is Africa. Who would have thought that Kabila's son would be elevated to his father's position at such a young age. Maybe this is a game of thrones for sure with Grace seeking a place holder for one the sons. The so called factional leaders may unite under a uniting figure to allow them to continue leaving their good life.

Reg Map - 3 August 2014

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quck - 4 August 2014

Bravo Comrade Garwe there, hullo Mr Garwe.....zano nderipi.

Chidondova - 4 August 2014

This Grace issue is another diversionary tactic by Zanu PF so that we don't focus on the crumbling economy. The fact is that Grace herself knows that she is of no consequence to anyone except her husband and children.

Kt - 4 August 2014

Grace is a nobody in ZANU PF. Ichokwadi,'RINEMANYANGA HARIPUTIRWE.' UPFUMI HWOKUBA HWONETSA MACHENGETERO. CHOKUBA HACHIPFUMISI.

MATSOTSI HAAGERANI - 4 August 2014

Dr.Kaunda is a happy man because he left the scene after realizing the wind of change.Now our president fails to see this simple thing.Neither Grace nor Robert jnr will save him politically or economically.Grace had better stay out of politics completely.

nhambetambe - 4 August 2014

Is this the ''REVOLUTIONARY PARTY'' needing to be saved by wives?How many GUSHUNGOs from Zvimba participated in our liberation struggle??Has ZANU PF become a personal property??? What about Zimbabwe itself as a country????

ZHARAYAKARUMA - 4 August 2014

Sekeramai for president of Zimbabwe when Mugabe retires from office . Zimbabweans will choose who they want and they want Sekeramai to be the next president of Zimbabwe full stop !!!!!!!!!!!

Qwerty - 4 August 2014

Sidney Sekeramai will never be president in Zimbabwe even in a 100 years.

ROTOMOKAI - 5 August 2014

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