FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe is today expected to descend on Maphisa in Matabeleland South province, before heading to Masvingo for the last stage of her rallies ahead of Zanu PF’s conference starting in Victoria Falls next Monday.
by Nqobile Bhebhe/RICHARD CHIDZA
Unconfirmed reports yesterday were that Zanu PF youths in Maphisa and surrounding areas were ordering villagers to attend the rally without fail or face “dire consequences”.
“They were moving in groups of fours, saying no one was to be seen at their homesteads on Thursday [today]. Umuntu wonke kuGrace (Everyone to Grace),” a villager, who declined to be named, said.
“They added that a lot of food hampers would be distributed. She (Grace) will be giving us rice for Christmas.”
Apart from doling out food hampers, clothes and agricultural inputs, Grace has often used the rallies to rail against opposition party leaders and senior Zanu PF officials she accuses of fanning factionalism and angling to succeed her husband, President Robert Mugabe.
During her address to Zanu PF supporters in Gwanda in October last year, the First Lady touched a raw nerve, when she insinuated that most men in Matabeleland region were fond of dumping their wives and skipping the border to South Africa, instead of developing their areas.
The First Lady has already held rallies in Harare, Midlands, Manicaland, Mashonaland West, East and Central provinces, where she has donated various goods on behalf of government, courting the ire of opposition parties, who described the gesture as illegal.
Tomorrow, the First Lady will address her last rally in Masvingo before Zanu PF delegates head to Victoria Falls for the party’s conference.
Sources in the ruling party said tension was already building up ahead of her trip to Masvingo, which was the scene of her “rejection” a few weeks ago, after pro Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa Zanu PF members reportedly stalled a bid by G40 “to sneak her into the Presidium”.
“They have been going about it the wrong way. They wanted to force the President to appoint her VP and have one of the two, in particular Mnangagwa, dropped to the position of national chairman,” a senior party member claimed.
Mugabe dropped the national chairman’s position at last year’s congress. The post, the subject of much jostling, is now held on rotational basis by Mnangagwa and co-VP Phelekezela Mphoko.
Masvingo province, during an inter-district meeting, instead resolved to support Mugabe as the party’s sole candidate for the 2018 elections.
A similar pattern occurred in Mashonaland West, where another pro-Grace group, known as the “Golden Girls” — fronted by Senate President Edna Madzongwe and Hurungwe East MP, Sarah Mahoka — tried in vain to push for a motion to have the upcoming conference turned into a mini-congress and force Mugabe’s hand at re-arranging the presidium.
Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa said they were rallying behind Mugabe and reminded party members that Grace was just the Women’s League boss.
“We have one centre of power in Zanu PF, namely Mugabe, yet others say they want to replace him with someone. To those who are doing that, I say: ‘Stop it’,” she said at the time.