ZANU PF’s secretary for women’s affairs and First Lady Grace Mugabe yesterday raised eyebrows at her maiden politburo meeting when she occupied one of the front seats reserved for the party’s presidium during a politburo meeting, where former secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa and his nephew Temba Mliswa were expelled from the ruling party.
Grace sat next to President Robert Mugabe together with vice-presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko.
But it was the sitting arrangement in yesterday’s meeting which set tongues wagging and fuelled speculation that Grace was either being groomed to succeed Mugabe or strategically occupied the seat to provide nursing care for her husband who turns 91 on Saturday.
Normally, the top table is reserved for Mugabe and his two deputies, in this case Mnangagwa and Mphoko.
Mugabe sat between Grace and Mnangagwa, as Mphoko was relegated to the far left corner.
According to the new Zanu PF line-up unveiled after the party’s heavily contested December 2014 congress, the next in line after the three-member presidium is secretary for administration Ignatius Chombo followed by finance secretary Obert Mpofu and national commissar Savior Kasukuwere.
In the previous politburo structure, then women’s league secretary Oppah Muchinguri came a distant 16th.
Grace succeeded Muchinguri at the December congress.
Addressing journalists after the meeting, Zanu PF national spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said: “Now to the issue of Mutasa, the detailed report by the national disciplinary committee was presented to the politburo, highlighting the disparaging remarks made by Cde Mutasa about the party leadership and his rubbishing of the congress held last December as illegal, null and void.
“He went further to write to Sadc leaders appealing for their intervention, among other things.
“The committee treated his case as unique and extraordinary, and determined that in terms of its rules as the national disciplinary committee, Cde Mutasa continues to be unrepentant and continues to issue statements which are not helpful to himself either.
“The politburo has, therefore, expelled Cde Mutasa from the party, which renders his seat in Parliament vacant.”
Mutasa is MP for Headlands constituency in Manicaland province.
Earlier, Mutasa had questioned why Zanu PF was adamant that he should not take the party to court and instead face a disciplinary hearing, when the likes of former war veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda had not been afforded the same treatment.
“They should lead by example,” he said.
“Where is Jabulani Sibanda now? Why did they not seek an internal settlement?
“So if they sent Cde Jabulani Sibanda to court, they should accept (being taken to court) by the same token.
“They should be consistent.”
Moyo said Mliswa, the Hurungwe West MP, had been fired for charges ranging from insubordination, denigrating national party leaders, interfering with running of the youth and women’s leagues in the province, extortionist behaviour and continued interruption of party activities.
“His expulsion renders his seat in Parliament vacant,” he said.
Bikita West MP Munyaradzi Kereke and Mudzi South MP Jonathan Samkange were readmitted into the party.
Kereke contested and won the 2013 harmonised elections on a Zanu PF ticket against a party directive which ordered him to step aside for the party’s preferred candidate Elias Musakwa.
Samkange was elected as an independent candidate.
Another Zanu PF official from Mashonaland East, Daniel Garwe, who contested the Murehwa North seat as an independent was readmitted after a successful appeal.
Mutasa, one of the long-serving Zanu PF members, crossed swords with his party colleagues last December when he sought to nullify the party’s congress resolutions claiming the indaba was convened unconstitutionally.
Miffed by Mutasa’s defiance, the politburo last month set up a six-member disciplinary tribunal headed by Mphoko with Grace as one its members to deal with the case.