ZIMBABWE – FIRST Lady, Grace Mugabe is emerging as a powerful political force in Zanu PF with information emerging that some party bigwigs are now abandoning their factions to rally behind her.
Sources said although Grace was not interested in any position within the party, the First Lady has become an influential figure as she fights to ensure that the interests of the First Family are secured when President Robert Mugabe eventually leaves office.
A senior Zanu PF official said Grace became more interested in national politics after it emerged that a section in Zanu PF was pushing for Mugabe to quit before his five-year term of office expires in 2018.He said Grace’s influence has seen 90-year-old Mugabe failing to implement certain decisions agreed by his party.“There are some officials who were earmarked for certain positions but this has not happened because they do not have the blessing of the First Lady,” said the official.
He said even when Mugabe appointed his cabinet last year, the First Lady’s hand could be seen, as some of the selected ministers do not belong to any of the two main factions in Zanu PF.
The official said Mugabe used to be overprotected by people in his inner circle, including members of the Presidium and security services who were allegedly blocking other officials from directly communicating with the Zanu PF leader.
But he said many officials who had no direct link to Mugabe now had Grace’s ears and attention.
“Mugabe used to be fed with lies by some of his top officials who give him regular briefings,” said the official.
He said some officials who used to be sidelined due to factional politics, were now communicating with Mugabe through Grace. The group now said to be aligned to the First Lady, include cabinet ministers, politburo members and some securocrats.
The official said whoever eventually succeeded Mugabe would need to have the blessing of the First Lady.
Mugabe boycotted the EU Africa summit in Brussels because Grace was denied a visa. He also ordered the entire Zimbabwe delegation to stay away from the two-day meeting attended by 90 nations and 65 heads of government from Africa and Europe.
Mugabe has barred his party from debating his succession, claiming his position was not yet up for grabs. On Friday, the Zanu PF leader said neither Vice-President Joice Mujuru nor Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa had an automatic ticket to take over from him.
Mujuru and Mnangagwa are touted as the leading contenders in the race to succeed Mugabe. But the two repeatedly denied leading factions linked to them and claim that they do not harbour Presidential ambitions.
Zanu PF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo was not willing to comment on the issue, only saying the public spats between officials and simmering factionalism in the party would be dealt with at an appropriate time. The First Family’s spokesperson, Lawrence Kamwi could not be reached for comment yesterday. The Standard