Last week, the First Lady held a rally in Mbare – a constituency held by Tendai Savanhu, one of the former party heavyweights who have been linked to Mujuru’s “Gamatox faction” – and pleaded for party supporters to pardon their legislator.
The First Lady then went to Mberengwa where she held a rally at Mataga centre in a constituency held by Chiratidzo Iris Mabuwa, who is also on a two-year suspension on allegations of working with Mujuru to topple President Robert Mugabe.
Addressing thousands of party supporters in Mbare, the First Lady pleaded for the electorate to pardon Savanhu telling them to work with him. Party insiders told NewsDay that the First Lady wants to position herself as a saviour to most of these politicians who have been suspended and win their loyalty.
“The First Lady is doing so in a bid to destroy whatever the Mujuru team was building, she is luring back some of those who were linked to Mujuru’s team and sending a conciliatory message to the suspended officials and extending an olive branch to them. In the end, she has built a support base and political chest,” a party insider said.
In Mbare, the First Lady told the supporters to pardon Savanhu despite loud public disapprovals from the crowd with some women shouting that he was a sell-out.
From the start of the rally, the First Lady acknowledged Savanhu and told supporters to work with him.
“We all know that he is currently being disciplined…, but please forgive him. We are here to support him and show that he is one of us,” the First Lady said.
“Please forgive him, he has realised his mistakes. I am very serious about this, be like a mother, he is your MP, you voted for him on a Zanu PF ticket. Anyway, I will come back so that we can talk and forgive vaSavanhu.” She spoke as the crowd persistently rejected her calls to pardon the former Lands deputy minister.
After the address, Savanhu went to the First Lady and shook her hands beaming with joy and could be seen sighing a breath of relief as his political career had been given a lifeline.
After Mbare and Mberengwa, the First Lady went to Murehwa, where Uzumba MP and former Provincial Affairs minister Simbaneuta Mudarikwa, who was also kicked out of his government post and booted out of the party’s executive due to links to the Mujuru team also hails from.
Savanhu was suspended from the party for five years on allegations of working with Mujuru, together with Mabuwa and Mudarikwa, who were both suspended for two years.
Zanu PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, who has been part of the team travelling with the First Lady, said she chose the three constituencies based on the needs of the people there. He said when a person was suspended from the party, it did not follow that he had been expelled.
“Being suspended does not mean being expelled. And the First Lady can address a rally at any place where she sees a need as the women’s league head,” Kasukuwere said.
Analysts said the First Lady is employing divide-and-rule tactics in the Mujuru camp to ensure that she discourages those who would want to join the mooted People First project are de-motivated.
“This is politics at play, Zanu PF understands that most people can survive when they are in the party and those who were suspended are willing to do anything to ensure their return and become influential. So the First Lady knowing that, she is capitalising on that,” Alexandra Rusero, a Harare based political analyst, said.