THE year 2014 was probably the most dramatic politically in Zimbabwe.
With Zanu PF having won a contentious majority, it was expected that the party will consolidate its gains.
Very few would have expected the seismic changes that occurred following First Lady Grace Mugabe’s dramatic knockabout entry into mainstream politics.
Below is compiled a list of people we believe were the news and noisemakers of the year.
If ever there are national awards on Zimbabwe’s newsmakers and noisemakers of the year, Grace would no doubt overwhelmingly sweep both accolades.
The last six months literally belonged to Grace, as she made a dramatic entry into Zimbabwe’s turbulent political arena.
It is a year which many would want to quickly forget. While others are still basking in the glory of their successes, but for Grace is was a roller-coaster.
Her shock entry was announced at her 49th birthday bash by former Zanu PF women’s league chairperson Oppah Muchinguri, who said she was stepping down and paving way for her.
Grace said some war collaborators had approached her asking her to enter politics and stand as chairperson of the women’s league.
Her Mazowe Orphanage Farm quickly became the citadel of power, the most visited place by Zanu PF members aligned to her.
That sparked a stampede as a litany of Zanu PF-aligned groups ranging from the clergy, war veterans, youths, informal traders, student bodies and Cabinet ministers’ spouses rushed to endorse her.
Enter Dr Grace Mugabe
Grace was capped by her husband, President Robert Mugabe and is believed to have earned a sociology PhD in a record two months from the University of Zimbabwe.
In September, Grace embarked on a countrywide tour, ostensibly to thank Zanu PF structures for endorsing her nomination as the women’s league boss. She used rallies as a campaign platform to boost her national profile and she took the opportunity to tear into former Vice-President Joice Mujuru in the most vitriolic terms, calling her corrupt and a liar needing exposure.
During the Zanu PF congress, Grace slipped a handwritten note to Mugabe ordering him off the podium after he had spent too much time rambling irrelevance.
The announcement of Mphoko as vice-president came as much of a surprise to many Zimbabweans.
The surprise element was based on claims that he was not widely known within Zanu PF circles and by ordinary Zimbabweans. He was regarded as a rank outsider.
His appointment was a complete turn-around for the former Zipra combatant, who 30 years ago was arrested by Mugabe’s government at the height of the Gukurahundi genocide.
However, Mphoko is said to have begun paving his way to the presidium secretly, well ahead of other contenders.
Late in June, Mphoko sponsored a lavish belated 90th birthday party for Mugabe in Bulawayo, sparking claims he was campaigning for the vice-presidency.
On his part he said he made donations out of goodwill saying his family had a history of supporting deserving causes within Bulawayo.
“Let us not mix things; assisting people has nothing to do with the (vice-presidency) race . . . it does not mean that I want to stand for any position,” he told Southern Eye then.
Zanu PF insiders claimed Mphoko promised war veterans at one of the meetings that he would look after their interests if elevated to the vice-presidency. After bashing of Bulawayo Zanu PF leaders, Mphoko donated two beasts to the boisterous Grace.
On the business scene, Mphoko is involved with Choppies supermarkets, which have taken Bulawayo by storm and now expanding to Harare.
A former MDC-T stalwart and Bulawayo provincial chairman, Moyo, announced earlier in the year that he was taking a sabbatical to concentrate on his studies.
It came as a surprise as it coincided with heightened infighting within the party, with members accusing him of lacking leadership qualities.
Speculation mounted as to whether he had ditched the party to join MDC-Renewal. In September, Moyo broke his silence, announcing at a press conference his resignation from the MDC-T.
Moyo attributed his decision to stand down to MDC-T failure to push for the democracy project since its electoral defeat in July last year.
“The leadership of the party has failed to handle well the outcome of the 2013 election.
“Unfortunately, an angel of darkness visited our party,” he said.
“The party was wrecked by a demon and became a modern Tower of Babel, where there is a lot of confusion,” he said.
Once a feared war veterans’ leader, Sibanda dramatically fell from grace (excuse the pun) in the latter part of the year for speaking out against Grace’s rallies.
At the height of Grace’ rallies, Sibanda, declared that he would continue boycotting them unless and until she stopped her public attacks on Mujuru.
However, it was his sentiments on rejecting “any coup, both in the boardroom and in the bedroom” that fast-tracked his downfall.
It was widely interpreted as being mischievous in Zanu PF circles and he was quickly toppled.
Weeks later, Sibanda was arrested for allegedly undermining Mugabe while addressing a group of war veterans in Manicaland Province on October 27.
Sibanda later told Southern Eye that he would not be silenced following his expulsion from Zanu PF, saying he would respond after the cropping season.
“I have not been silenced, I will talk. I will be responding to everything after the cropping season,” he said.
In Bulawayo, Sibanda caused an uproar, as a clique of top Zanu PF members accused him of being a divisive figure.
Sibanda had over the years previously clashed with almost all Zanu PF leaders from Matabeleland, including the late vice-presidents Joseph Msika and John Nkomo, whom he described as big jokes.
Former Zanu PF women’s league boss Oppah Muchinguri literally spent the greater part of the last three months at Grace’s side.
Muchinguri, newly appointed Higher Education minister, traversed the country with Grace during her countrywide tour.
She would later unwittingly let the cat out of the bag, revealing that Mugabe marked Grace’s PhD thesis.
“Amai Mugabe spent sleepless nights studying for her PhD, while President Mugabe marked for her,” she said.
During the swearing-in of vice- presidents Mphoko and Emmerson Mnangwanga, Muchingiri renewed speculation that Mugabe may have probably decided to retire.
Asked by journalists whether the removal of Mujuru and the appointment of an all-male presidium did not represent a huge setback for women’s empowerment, Muchinguri said: “Something will soon be done to deal with that.
“I can’t reveal it here, or discuss it, but soon you will see something being done to solve that (the absence of women in the presidium).”
Leader of PHD Ministries, Prophet Walter Magaya, known for drawing record crowds during his crusade was accused of committing adultery by a Harare man, Denford Mutashu.
Mutashu dragged Magaya to court suing him for $500 000 in damages.
Mutashu alleged that he had evidence of text messages communicated by Magaya to his wife.
In November, tragedy struck during Magaya’s Mbizo Stadium in Kwekwe crusade; 11 people were killed, including three minors and 54 others were injured during a stampede.
He was implicated in the death of one of his church members, who was reportedly arrested for smuggling in Botswana.
The year began with the nation still coming to terms with revelations of former Premier Services Medical Aid Society (PSMAS) chief executive officer Cuthbert Dube’s pay cheque.
Dube was said to be earning a cool $230 000 monthly salary at a time PSMAS owed service providers close to $40 million.
The figures left the country in awe and triggered what become known as the Salarygate scandal.
Dube was said to be getting a lump sum payment of $500 000 every five years as a loyalty bonus and PSMAS was to buy him a house worth at least half-a-million US dollars when he retired.
He had travel allowances averaging $48 000 per trip regardless of the destination, and a further $17 000 for his partner. They would both fly first class. The beleaguered Dube sought another fourth term as Zimbabwe Football Association boss and won convincingly.
Bootlicking among Zanu PF members is not a new phenomenon.
Probably feeling overshadowed by Psychomotor minister Josiah Hungwe describing acting president Emmerson as the “Son of Man”, Zanu PF Hurungwe East MP Sarah Mahoka made the most of Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs minister Faber Chidarikire’s recent gaffe.
Chidarikire addressed Mnangagwa’s wife, Auxilia, as acting First Lady. In rebuking Chidarike, Mahoka was quoted saying, “No woman can be equated to our only anointed Amai Mugabe.
“She is an angel sent to this country to liberate all women and men.
“She is anointed by the spirit of Ambuya Nehanda.”