HARARE - First Lady Grace Mugabe’s endorsement to take over the leadership of the Zanu PF Women’s League and the push by Mashonaland provinces for her son Robert Junior to be nominated for an influential position in the party’s National Youth League has raised fears of a political dynasty.
The two are wife and son respectively to President Robert Mugabe, who has been in power for the past three decades.
Mugabe is the country’s sole leader since it gained independence from the British colonisers in 1980.
He celebrated his 90th birthday in February and retained power last July, after a largely-contested landslide victory.
The main opposition party MDC, claims Mugabe rigged the elections.
Notwithstanding his advanced age, coupled with ill-health reports, Mugabe has however, not showed any signs of slowing down.
The nonagenarian leader has not nominated any successor from his party and now his family has been thrown into the political fray, with an anticipation of grabbing top positions, a move seen as a political game changer.
This has further brought to the fore the succession dispute and widening the cracks that already exist in the revolutionary party.
Political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya told the Daily News that Mugabe’s move is aimed at safeguarding the family’s economic interests after his demise.
“The Mugabe family has realised that Mugabe’s political life has reached its sunset. What is happening now is an attempt by the first family to protect the economic interestS of Mugabe after his demise which is imminent, inevitable and inescapable. It’s irreversible at his age,” Ruhanya said.
His succession has remained a closely-guarded aspect, but some analysts believe, the possible elevation of his wife and son is a move to promote a culture of political dynasty.
However, Ruhanya said he did not know whether Mugabe and his family were going to achieve the desired outcome, because of the succession dispute currently bedevilling the revolutionary party.
He said the country was hit by a serious economic free fall soon after Zanu PF won the elections last year. He said the party is clueless on how to avert the situation.
“The question will be why should Zimbabweans continue to give a mandate to a clueless and failed regime. He (Mugabe) is losing grip from the national political economy of the state because of old age”.
With the coming in of Robert Jnr, another piece has been added to the country’s political “chess board”, casting it as a long-term plan aimed at maintaining the country’s leadership trail within the Mugabe family.
The net has been cast wide and it is free for all in the revolutionary party as the current political developments involving first Mugabe’s wife and now his son, have kept people guessing.
Grace’s election to the post at the party’s congress to be held in December means she will take her place in Zanu PF’s politburo — further tightening her husband’s octopus-like grip on power.
Though the selection of the first family members is seen in some political circles as a way of bridging the gap between warring factions that are threatening to tear the party apart ahead of the congress, some feel this is a strategic move aimed at perpetuating the Mugabe hegemony.
The latest developments could be seen as a way of neutralising the bigger political fight pitting Vice President Joice Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa’s factions who are allegedly seen as the leading contenders to succeed Mugabe.
But both Mnangagwa and Mujuru have publicly denied leading any factions.
Some insiders fear Grace’s involvement in the equation is strategically meant to convert her into a personal political power base, possibly eyeing the presidency although some see this as a long shot.
The First Lady helped fire up an overflow crowd that nominated her at her 49th birthday party at her farm in Mazowe over a week ago.
She was serenaded by throngs of supporters in her northern stronghold.
The event came as days for the Women’s League elective congress draw closer. Following Grace’s nomination, University of Zimbabwe political scientist Eldred Masunungure told our sister paper, the Daily News on Sunday this week that it was a momentous development, which will likely reconfigure lines of factionalism in Zanu PF.
Masunungure said Grace had not taken power for herself.
“She has been given power on a silver platter.
“She does not qualify for that position given the stringent rules the party has set for itself. It may be part of the dynamics that she wants to be closer considering that the president might not hang around for much longer and if he does, he will not have the stamina to continue to rule,” he said.