Grace return stokes fear in Zanu PF

“There is no doubt that she is a centre of their power. She will soon be placed on the same level as the president.”

THE return on Sunday of First Lady Grace Mugabe from her two-month-long holiday has reportedly sent top Zanu PF officials into a pensive mood, with some fearing for their political lives amid reports of an impending major Cabinet shake-up, officials revealed.

Own Correspondent

Grace is believed to wield enormous influence on key decisions made by her ageing husband President Robert Mugabe who turns 91 on Saturday.

The government and Zanu PF sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity yesterday, said they were anticipating a major reshuffle in both the ruling party and government structures starting this week following her return.

The officials said the party expected the appointment of new Cabinet ministers and a swift resolution of the disciplinary case involving fired Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa.

Grace is in the seven-member disciplinary panel appointed by Mugabe recently to address Mutasa’s matter.

The committee, chaired by Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko, is yet to meet following its appointment, as Grace was away.

“Remember, the First Lady is now the kingmaker in both the party and the government, and starting this week, there is likely to be a lot of activity, as she takes over from where she left after our resounding congress in December,” a Zanu PF insider said.

“Mind you, Amai is the one credited with the downfall of (former Vice-President Joice) Mujuru and her followers both in the party and the government.

“She is likely to resume her campaign and exert her influence in the appointment of outstanding Cabinet posts.”

In the run-up to the party’s congress last December, Grace led a vicious campaign against Mujuru accusing her of plotting to topple Mugabe.

Although Mujuru denied the charges, she was eventually relieved of both her party and government posts.

Opposition parties and political analysts yesterday expressed similar fears that Grace’s return could spell doom for perceived pro-Mujuru party cadrés.

National Constitutional Assembly spokesperson Maddock Chivasa said: “Her coming back means more chaos in Zanu PF, as she is widely believed to be the chief principal and symbol of hate and divisions.”

Political analyst Takura Zhangazha said Grace’s return was only significant to Zanu PF, with people who led her campaign to land the women’s league post now looking up to her for political ascendancy and the next step after the purges.

“Within the context of their party, it means those that led the ousting of the former VP will look up to her for the next step and action for political ascendancy in Zanu PF,” he said.

“Nationally, her return will not change anything. It’s significant only to Zanu PF. There is no new policy she can review. She can end up in Cabinet, but apart from that, there is nothing much she can do on policy issues.”

MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu, said there was nothing much to expect from Grace, but wished her a speedy recovery.

“Grace should ask herself few very tough questions: Why did she have to travel more than 10 000km away from Zimbabwe in order to undergo a relatively simple operation?” he said.

“Why have her husband and the political party he leads allowed the health delivery system to collapse?

“Why is it that they can afford to wine and dine in high society in the Far East for more than two months at a time when more than 85% of Zimbabweans are living in poverty and destitution and are surviving on less than $2 per day?

“What is the total cost to the taxpayer for chartering an Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767 jet from Harare to Singapore and back?”

MDC-Renewal spokesperson Jacob Mafume said it was worrying that Grace was becoming a new centre of power in Zimbabwe an indication that all was not well with her husband.