SOME traditional leaders yesterday sensationally claimed that they were tricked into endorsing First Lady Grace Mugabe’s new-found political career during their tour of her private orphanage centre in Mazowe on Tuesday.
The chiefs said they had been misled into believing that the tour was just to help them appreciate the First Lady’s charity work, but were taken aback when Chief’s Council president Fortune Charumbira railroaded them to endorse the First Lady as new leader of the Zanu PF women’s league.
“We were told that we were going to see the First Lady’s projects. But when we arrived there, it turned out that the meeting had been organised to show solidarity with her over her appointment to be secretary of the women’s league,” said a chief who declined to be named for fear of reprisals.
Grace has apparently been using the orphanage as a campaign ground to launch her political career after she separately hosted thousands of Zanu PF youth and women’s league members at the centre last month.
The groups in turn “unanimously” endorsed her candidature, effectively ruling out any contest for the post ahead of the ruling party’s elective congress in December.
Grace’s nomination has triggered fierce factional wars in the ruling party, forcing Mugabe to publicly defend her amid fears that the 90-year-old Zanu PF leader was plotting to anoint her successor. Vice-Presiddent Joice Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa are reportedly locked in bitter factional fights to succeed Mugabe.
The Mujuru faction, seen to be against Grace’s rise, has accused the Mnangagwa faction of supporting the First Lady’s rise as a choreographed move to neutralise Mujuru’s power base.
As if to confirm the allegations, incumbent women’s league boss Oppah Muchinguri, believed to be a Mnangagwa ally, has lately turned herself into Grace’s blue-eyed girl.
Charumbira, also believed to be an ally of Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, led the 250 traditional leaders in praise-singing the First Lady, describing her as a philanthropist.
He said there was nothing unusual about her rise. The chiefs’ leader could not be reached for comment yesterday as he was reportedly travelling to Gweru for the traditional leaders’ annual conference.
However, analysts blasted the chiefs’ Mazowe trip saying it confirmed that the traditional leaders were partisan.
Mnangagwa, during a question-and-answer session in Parliament yesterday, defended the chiefs’ Mazowe trip saying they had gone there to see the “Queen”.
MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said the country’s Constitution was very clear that chiefs should not dabble in internal party politics and Charumbira ought to know better.
“That they can go to Grace’s property to show support for the proposed position in Zanu PF leadership shows that the chiefs are acting in a partisan manner,” he said.
“It is not allowed under Section 15 of the new Constitution. It is unconstitutional, illegal and extremely patronising for the chiefs to do that.”
Political analysts Ernest Mudzengi and Alexander Rusero said the chiefs’ behaviour posed a constitutional challenge.
“Very soon we will see the war veterans, the war collaborators and other groups stampeding to visit Mazowe to endorse Grace. Having a Constitution is one thing and adhering to it is something else,” he said.