HARARE - First Lady Grace Mugabe has apparently been given “a blank cheque” by Zanu PF’s ambitious young Turks, the Generation 40 (G40) group, who are now said to be actively lobbying her to succeed her ailing nonagenarian husband, President Robert Mugabe.
If this were to come to pass, it would effectively torpedo Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s chances of ever landing the top post, a move that many of the VP’s supporters are zealously working towards.
Well-placed Zanu PF sources told the Daily News yesterday that with a berth in the party’s all-powerful politburo, courtesy of her position as women’s league boss, as well as “her close proximity to the ultimate authority in Zanu PF and the government (Mugabe)”, it is no wonder that she is “increasingly enjoying as much bootlicking and sycophancy” as Mugabe — with G40 allegedly and expedient at the heart of all this.
One insider claimed that the G40 camp, which comprises relatively young ruling party politicians and some of Mugabe’s relatives, was “so anti-Mnangagwa” that they were now “furiously” pushing for Mugabe’s wife to be Zanu PF’s next leader.
“The young Turks don’t trust Mnangagwa and they feel that if he was ever to be the president their hopes of ever succeeding him will be blown away.
“They would rather have Grace with whom they can determine the future together than Mnangagwa who has already demonstrated that the Karangas will be in charge once he is in power. There are lots of tribal and regional dynamics at play,” the insider said.
And apparently seduced “by the promise and fruits of unfettered power”, Grace is warming to the idea and is thus allegedly turning on the Mnangagwa faction with whom she had had an alliance since last year when she fronted the political decapitation of former Vice President Joice Mujuru and her allies.
“Among many other reasons, including their over-weening ambition, the G40 also feels that Mnangagwa will be a hard sell to the electorate come 2018, for many reasons including allegations pertaining to his perceived ruthlessness and alleged role in the infamous Gukurahundi atrocities of the 1980s — hence their (G40) rallying behind Grace,” another source said.
Mugabe’s often loose-tongued nephew, Patrick Zhuwao — an alleged key G40 member — recently wrote that “it would be foolish” for the two VPs, Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, not to listen to Grace’s advice, after stunning revelations by the controversial first lady last month that the two bigwigs regularly take instructions from her.
Another source intimately familiar with Zanu PF politics also said there was “a disturbing trend” as the party’s deadly factional and succession wars deepened, whereby “tribalism and regionalism are coming to the fore in a bad way”.
In this “madness”, Mnangagwa and his allies were now being accused of setting up structures that were sympathetic “to the Karanga dream of leading the country”.
Addressing party youths last month, Mugabe panned Zanu PF factionalism in remarks that many insiders said were allegedly directed at Mnangagwa, further warning party youths against coalescing around individuals.
“If you are choosing between my two vice-presidents, you are beginning your own Gamatox. They (the VPs) occupy equal sphere. If you say you want this one to succeed, you are already bringing division within the people and this so soon after our election.
“The people will choose when the time comes, and you will be part of that process, but don’t get divided by that question now,” Mugabe said in a rare admission that factionalism continues to be a big problem in his warring party.
Another source said Grace had played a key role in Mugabe’s latest Cabinet reshuffle, claiming further that the two VPs had only been “advised later”.
“That (new Cabinet appointees) is a line-up from Amai. Mnangagwa wanted his wife to be the Women’s Affairs minister but Amai chose her long-time friend Nyasha Chikwinya who was plucked from nowhere although she is connected to the Mujuru faction.
“Years back, she (Chikwinya) was also linked to a corruption scandal but because of her friendship with Amai she is back. And former Mashonaland East minister of State Biggie Matiza lost his post because he was a Mnangagwa ally in the province,” the source said.
Giving examples of how much the Mnangagwa faction was under the cosh, another senior party official told the Daily News on Monday that in the past fortnight alone, a number of alleged key allies of the VP had either been suspended from the smouldering ruling party ship or had been publicly humiliated, with Grace again said to be at the centre of all of this.
“It’s not a coincidence that (Zanu PF) Mashonaland West (province) kicked out interim chairman Ziyambi Ziyambi this week and replaced him with Keith Guzah. Ziyambi is in the VP’s faction and you will remember that Dr Amai dressed him down in public when she officiated at the ground-breaking ceremony of housing stands in Kadoma recently,” he added.
The Daily News also reported yesterday that the uneasy alliance of the past year between Grace and Mnangagwa was unravelling, as Mugabe’s increasingly influential wife was now said to be working again with the G40 camp.
Insiders told the daily that a number of developments over the past few weeks suggested that the pact between Grace and Mnangagwa, which had been witnessed when they worked together to annihilate Mujuru and her allies, “is now on shaky grounds”.
“I think you guys in the media are missing a trick here. It’s not the G40 that is reeling under pressure, no. It is the Mnangagwa camp that is taking a massive beating at the hands of people who are hobnobbing with Dr Amai as comrades and their factions fight to the bitter end to succeed President Mugabe,” one of the sources claimed.
Another well-placed source corroborated the claims that the G40 — which allegedly includes self-proclaimed “political thug” and Zanu PF’s national commissar and minister of Local Government, Saviour Kasukuwere — had “floored” many of Mnangagwa’s supporters in the party’s ongoing restructuring programme.
“Surprisingly, where you would have expected Tyson (Kasukuwere) and the G40 to be punished by the party for doing this, President Mugabe has actually moved to reward the group with important Cabinet positions,” the central committee member said.