HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace’s utterances at recent public rallies and meetings have reduced the ageing former guerrilla fighter to just an ordinary man, analysts say.
They say at 90, Mugabe is too old to be able to run both government and party affairs, hence has thrust Grace, 49, to take charge albeit initially in the background.
While Grace has been working behind the scenes, her recent utterances at public meetings and provincial rallies seem to expose her as the brains behind most key decisions by Mugabe.
The first lady has claimed that she is the one who facilitated the appointment of Joice Mujuru as vice president, hence she has the power to force her to step down because she (Mujuru) was not helping the president among a myriad of allegations.
The Daily News on Sunday spoke to analysts to find out what they think about Grace’s call for a “Final Push” to oust Mujuru whom she alleges is corrupt and had a hand in the formation of opposition political parties including the Movement for Democratic Change, MDC.
Political activist Mcdonald Lewanika said while Grace does not have the authority to ask Mujuru to resign; she certainly seems to have the power and courage to do so.
“This power stems from her proximity to the throne and also the political base that she has assumed through her association with both Mugabe and the Mnangagwa faction, as well as whatever groundswell generated with her rise to political office and the meet the people rallies.
“In fact, she is the power behind the throne and it is not too much to assume that she has been running the country from her bedroom, how else would one expect a nonagenarian to effectively run a country?”
Lewanika said it is perhaps this reality that accounts for part of the poor state of affairs in Zimbabwe’s polity.
“So the question is not whether she can force Mujuru to resign, she is forcing Mujuru out, what we wait to see is the methodology that will be used to ensure her ouster.
“The challenge, however, is that Grace’s influence and power is misplaced and will have a huge impact on historical political settlements in Zanu PF which over time have ensured stability and unity in the party based on balancing multiple interests.
“Her suggestion to have Mujuru resign will upset this balance or political settlement and may in the short term cause instability in Zanu PF and in the long term cause its demise as a united dominant force.
“This will impact on Zanu PF’s pursuit of hegemony and depending on what Mujuru does, may set the stage for the demise of Zanu PF as a ruling party.”
Centre for Community Development Zimbabwe, CCDZ director Phillip Pasirayi said it is clear that Mugabe is no longer in charge.
“Despite her lack of liberation credentials and a dodgy academic record, Grace is now an important player in terms of making key decisions in both Zanu PF and government.
“Yes, she does not sit in the Zanu PF politburo but she has the full support and backing of the bulk of Mnangagwa loyalists such as Jonathan Moyo, Josiah Hungwe, Saviour Kasukuwere and others who are seeing this as a golden opportunity to deliver a decisive blow to Mujuru’s political career.”
Pasirayi believes Grace is being used by the Mnangagwa group to end prematurely the political career of Mujuru.
“The Mnangagwa group has devised a multi-pronged strategy to achieve its objectives.
“The first prong is the framing and negative portrayal of Mujuru and ministers that are aligned to her as incompetent and corrupt, ” he said adding that the State-controlled media was being used to achieve this.
“The other prong is to put pressure on Mujuru and her loyalists to quit. The headache of the Mnangagwa/Grace faction is that they do not have support on the ground if we are to consider the outcome of the previous Zanu PF elections.”
A social commentator who could only be identified as Murambwi said with all due respect, the comments by Grace are misguided. “I am not a Mujuru apologist but morally and ethically, Grace’s comments leave a sour taste.
“If there are issues, as human beings we sit and table the issues and not use a rally to denigrate and attack a fellow leader.
“That is a poor way of approaching issues.
“She (First Lady) has no power to remove someone from office. If she helped someone into a position she must have done so with clear motives, to just help, not with the hope to solicit favours.
“Mujuru has every reason to be ambitious as she is a celebrated leader with a following that can shock all these mafikizolos.
“She has respect from international community with no need to trample on skeletons to gain influence. This is comedy,” said Murambwi
Legislator, Settlement Chikwinya is not surprised Grace has been running the country.
“She was clear in her speech when she said ‘I am the one who has been running this country for the past seven years’.”
Political activist Tabani Moyo said since Grace crossed the mucky waters of politics, she has failed to express polished political statements, projections, neither has she articulated any political framework that shows progression except threats and more of them.
“She holds no remote power to fire the Vice President of the republic.
“As you can see, all along the president rode on the mystery that you cannot second guess his thinking.
“What she has achieved is to pierce the veil of mystery and make the president look like an ordinary leader.
“She has shown that the president is inept and he has sent her upon those legitimately contesting for political power in his party.
“So, all that is happening is a show of failure of leadership on the person of the president.
“In another way it is quite revealing of the torment that the president seems to have been subjected to, through the character exposé of the first lady by her chain of rallies.
“In summary, it is an opportunity that has presented itself in the party structures and the government on the imperative need for change of its supreme leader.
“Equally telling is the league of people behind the first lady.
“It seems they are giving her all this coverage so that she will be politically buried before her rise,” said Moyo.
Political commentator Blessing Ivan Vava said the revelations by Grace show us the other side of Mugabe that we did not know.
“She has no official power to do that but I think she has an indirect influence on the decisions Mugabe makes.
“She is fully aware of all those who have been meeting Mugabe clandestinely seeking for favours and she is taking advantage of that.”
Josh, an arts administrator thinks Grace has no capacity to force Mujuru to resign.
“But this smack of a typical staged drama, Zanu PF style.
“Remember, Zanu PF has some genuine PHD holders whose job is to come up with these political strategies.
“The civil society and opposition should keep the eye on the ball that is the economic and social justice issues and not be swayed like what they did with the Baba Jukwa.
“It is a given in my view that the president ‘seeks her opinions’ from time to time on government and party business, but at the same time the president is intelligent enough to make independent government and party decisions contrary to the views of Grace.
“It can be argued that Zanu PF is Mugabe and vice versa.
“How can they explain Grace who is without a significant position in the party but is parroting to the whole country and speaking authoritatively on behalf of the party?,” asked Josh.
Primrose Nyamweda believes the first ladies the world over have some influence by virtue of unlimited access to the president.
“Their influence is known to increase as the presidents age or are incapacitated.
“In Zambia, Sata’s wife is now running the affairs and Mama Kadzamira in Banda’s Malawi is another example.”
Nyamweda believes Grace can only lay the groundwork which is precisely what she is doing by tarnishing Mujuru’s image.
“Obviously Grace is privy to some hidden files of Mujuru and publicising them will be devastating on her.
“Mujuru might have files to really worry about and Mugabe keeps files on all Zanu PF officials.”
Nyamweda thinks Mujuru will not survive Zanu PF’s December Congress.
“She will be pushed out because there is no one who can survive the Zanu PF machinery marshalled against her. Even cunning (Edson) Zvobgo could not.”
She said the biggest worry for Zanu PF is whether the party will survive after deposing Mujuru considering her solid war credentials and that she has eight provinces on her side and hence the grassroots.
“Deposing of Mujuru has the potential to split the party.
“How will her followers, who are many, make it?
“All said, it appears the bare-knuckle attack by Grace has shaken Mujuru, I am sure she should be panicking.
“Remember her remarks when all this began — ‘saka ndoo mabvisiro amafunga kundiita here aya?’