Grace cancels Masvingo rally

HARARE - The poorly-managed and communicated cancellation of this weekend’s Masvingo rally by President Robert Mugabe’s controversial wife Grace, caught thousands of post-congress Zanu PF supporters by surprise, with many getting stranded in the central Zimbabwe town.

Irate party supporters who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said many of the people who were stranded in the town, without food and accommodation, were from far-flung remote areas and had travelled there without realising that Grace’s rally had been cancelled.

At the same time, her supporters in the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Collaborators Association (ZLWACO) were also similarly miffed after she snubbed their Masvingo meeting yesterday.

There were claims that she had not graced the gathering, and was no longer holding her planned rally in Masvingo because she had allegedly been alerted that Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s supporters intended to heckle her, in a province seen as one of the VP’s strongholds. 

Grace, who Zanu PF insiders say is locked in a bitter war with Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe, had been invited to be guest speaker at the war collaborators annual conference, where she was expected to continue with her attacks on party officials seen as opposed to her alleged presidential ambitions.

“Following intelligence information that a plot to embarrass Amai (Grace) had been hatched by some provincial leaders, it was decided that the timing may not be right, so the visit to Masvingo has been temporarily shelved,” a source told the Daily News yesterday.

ZLWACO national chairperson Pupurai Togarepi confirmed that the First Lady would not be gracing their conference as earlier planned.

“We had invited either His Excellency, the President, or the first lady, but neither of them wrote to us confirming their attendance. So, we are going ahead on our own,” Togarepi, who also doubles up as the Zanu PF national youth league chairperson, said.

He added that the ZLWACO leadership had since resolved not to invite another guest of honour to replace Grace.

“We agreed that it is either the First Family or no one. In any case, this is our conference and as the chairman, I will fill that void and our programmes go ahead. That is the position of the association,” he said.
Grace, who has become arguably the most powerful politician in the warring post-congress Zanu PF, is in the meanwhile said to be “livid” that the Mnangagwa camp had “stabbed her in the back” over the past few weeks.

An insider claimed that she was feeling aggrieved that many of her allies in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces had also been purged while she was away on her China trip last week.

This, the source said, was the reason behind her “determination” to venture into perceived Mnangagwa strongholds.

If the Masvingo mission had materialised, another source said, Grace planned to reverse the recent suspension of Zanu PF regional chairperson Paradzai Chakona —an alleged close ally of hers who was ousted from his position on allegations of fanning factionalism, creating parallel structures and misusing party vehicles.

With the factional and succession wars in the ruling party getting messier and more confusing by the day, Chakona is said to have once been a Mnangagwa ally, but allegedly fell out of favour with the under-siege Midlands godfather’s supporters after he attended Grace’s Rushinga rally last month, which most supporters of the VP shunned.

“Chakona was suspended mainly because he has been attending Amai’s rallies, with him and (Manicaland chairperson Samuel) Undenge being the only provincial chairmen who attended the Rushinga rally.

“This is the reason why there are moves to reinstate him because we all know that he is being victimised for this,” a youth league provincial executive member aligned to Grace’s camp said early this week. 

Zanu PF national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, who allegedly fronts the Generation 40 camp that backs Grace, is said to be currently making frantic efforts to reinstate the first lady’s ousted allies.

Among these allies are Mashonaland East regional secretary for administration Lawrence Katsiru — whose attempt to oust chairperson Joel Matiza from power backfired in spectacular fashion last weekend when he was slapped with a counter vote of no confidence.