HARARE - After 35-years of iron-fisted rule, President Robert Mugabe is paving way for his wife Grace to take over from him, as factional and succession battles continue devouring his party, analysts have said.
“Mugabe is heading a faction within Zanu PF that is pushing for Grace to take over, but facing strong resistance from several other factions,” senior southern
African researcher at Human Rights Watch Dewa Mavhinga said.
He told the Daily News that it was clear that Grace’s elevation was meant to create a Gushungo (Mugabe’s totem) empire, adding that Mugabe has always been on his wife’s side.
“The manner in which former Vice President Joice Mujuru was unceremoniously dismissed after 10 years as Mugabe’s deputy, the amendment of the Zanu PF constitution to give Mugabe all power to make all senior party appointments, and the elevation of Grace to head Zanu PF women’s wing, all point to a clear plan by Mugabe to establish a family dynasty with Grace taking over from Mugabe,” he said.
The comments come after Mugabe addressed hordes of his supporters soon after touching down at the Harare International Airport from the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday. During the speech, Mugabe controversially waded into his party’s factional fights, insinuating that no one had the right to stop his wife.
“We hear Amai Mugabe wants to go to Manicaland this time because she does not want to interact with people from towns only, with some saying she must come to Sakubva but the acting provincial chairperson (Samuel) Undenge also wanted her in Chimanimani. The party must also be visible in the chairman’s home area,” he said.
But analysts said that Mugabe was very well aware of his plan to push his wife to the throne and that the statement had a strong succession perspective.
“That can no longer be doubted, and Mugabe’s recent statement confirms plans for a Gushungo dynasty,” Mavhinga said.
He was however, quick to note that by pushing his wife’s agenda, Mugabe would divide the party further.
“Mugabe’s plan will further entrench vicious factionalism in Zanu PF. Grace does not have a clear political constituency outside of her bedroom proximity to Mugabe, and it appears that, unlike Joice Mujuru, Grace does not enjoy broad grassroots support in the party,” Mavhinga said.
Grace is currently seen as the torchbearer of the ambitious Young Turks known as the Generation 40 (G40) faction, which comprises among others, Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao and Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere.
The group is engaged in a bitter fight with Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s camp, as the battle to take over from 91-year-old Mugabe continues creating fissures in Zanu PF.
Maxwell Saungweme, another political analyst, told the Daily News that Mugabe’s statements were a clear indication that he was affirming his wife as the possible successor.
“Mugabe succeeded in creating a dynasty in Zanu PF and the country’s governance and this is clearly calculated to prolong the dynasty,” Saungweme said.
“The statement is also a clear testament that Mugabe no longer trusts anyone in his factional party. He only now can trust his wife. So clearly coming in the open about Grace pours cold water on Ngwena’s (Mnangagwa) ambitions.”
He said that it was now clear that the G40 enjoyed Mugabe’s sympathies.
“In terms of factionalism, the sentiments clearly point that the party is heavily divided and Mugabe’s failure to have a coherent succession plan is not making matters better, but worse. It’s clear he now sides with a faction where his wife belongs to, the G40,” he said.
Saungweme said that it was not the first time that Mugabe had taken his wife’s side.
“Mujuru was ousted because of the old man taking sides within the Zanu PF factions. Mugabe is very factional and has been thriving in factional chaos since 1980 where he would pit one faction against the other so that he emerges more powerful and appear neutral while presiding over a divided party. He is a factional master, a chief architect of divide and rule tactics,” Saungweme said.
Another South Africa-based analyst Taurai Kufa Mabhachi also echoed the same sentiments, claiming Mugabe was acting in favour of his wife.
“The statement that my wife cannot be stopped must not be viewed merely in relation to the Manicaland visit but in the entire succession question. The machinations to have his wife as president have always been visible especially if one looks at the latitude she was given in purging the Mujuru-aligned faction.
“This has even been palpable even beyond that, with Grace taking projects meant for government ministers to Kadoma and Binga. In fact the strategy by the unpopular nonagenarian was to endear his wife with the masses,” Mabhachi said.
He further said that Mugabe was assisting his wife in mass mobilisation within the party and to some extent outside the party so that she can possibly succeed him.
He said Mugabe’s statements were meant to influence the succession discourse in the party.