(Last Updated on October 12, 2015 by Editor)
ZIMBABWE – President Robert Mugabe’s controversial wife, Grace, savaged Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s allies when she visited Manicaland on Thursday, threatening to have them banished from the post-congress Zanu PF for allegedly fanning factionalism in the ruling party.
Well-placed sources who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said most of the embarrassing shellacking that Mnangagwa’s supporters had received took place in a no-holds-barred, closed-door meeting that the increasingly influential First Lady had held with regional party leaders ahead of her rally.
Zanu PF secretary for transport Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri — who now acts as the party’s provincial “godmother” following the purging of former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa from the ruling party — was apparently the main victim of Grace’s vitriolic attacks.
“During the briefing that preceded the rally, Muchinguri-Kashiri was roasted by Dr Amai (Grace), who even asked her why she was calling herself the godmother of the province. She also warned her that she risked being sacked from the party,” a provincial executive member who attended the briefing said.
Another insider said this tirade came after Manicaland provincial minister Mandi Chimene told Grace that the party was facing serious challenges from senior officials such as Muchinguri-Kashiri and central committee member Mike Madiro, who were allegedly running parallel regional structures and stalling development projects in the process.
Chimene is said to have also informed Grace that the Zanu PF Women’s League provincial chairperson, Happiness Nyakuedzwa — an alleged Muchinguri-Kashiri ally — was refusing to take instructions from anyone else besides the Water minister.
“Muchinguri was also told point blank that the most senior party official in the province was Mandi Chimene, followed by Samuel Undenge (the party provincial chairperson). Muchinguri did not say a word because Dr Amai was visibly angry. Nyakuedzwa tried to defend herself but was told to shut up.
“The First Lady asked her (Nyakuedzwa) to stand up, saying she did not know the provincial Women’s League boss. She (Grace) told her that she would summon her to Harare and that it was a matter of time before she was fired if she continued to disrespect Mandi and Undenge.
“She was told, ‘you do not answer back when I speak to you. You will not go far with your activities because you are hiding behind a finger but we have many ways to find out what you do here. We will not let you succeed’.
Nyakuedzwa sat down after (War veterans minister Christopher) Mutsvangwa pulled her back,” another provincial executive member said.
It is said that Madiro, a central committee member who was conspicuous by his absence at the event, was also at the receiving end of Grace’s venomous attack, after Chimene also reported him to the “unconquerable” First Lady.
“Mandi narrated Madiro’s history in the party, including his suspension over the Tsholotsho debacle 10 years ago, as well as the disputed allegations of him having stolen the president’s cows.
“She claimed that Madiro was up to no good, accusing him of abandoning his senior post in the central committee and coming down to the grass roots to destabilise structures,” another party official said.
In the run-up to Grace’s rally, senior Zanu PF officials opposed to Grace and the faction aligned to her allegedly circulated a series of messages on social media and other platforms, dissuading party supporters from attending.
They also accused Grace of allowing herself to be used by the ruling party’s ambitious Young Turks, commonly referred to as the Generation 40 (G40) group, who it is alleged, are working to divide and oust the party’s leadership from power, including Mugabe and Mnangagwa.
“They are moving around Manicaland encouraging supporters not to attend the First Lady’s rally. The way these factional wars are developing, coupled with the failure by the leadership to deal with them, it is a matter of time before we see body bags in Manicaland,” a party insider told the Daily News on Monday.
At the rally itself, and in yet another public demonstration that Grace has become arguably the single most powerful politician in the post-congress Zanu PF, a huge Cabinet entourage, including Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, accompanied her to the shindig.
This was despite the fact that the controversial First Lady said publicly that she had gone to Manicaland in her capacity as Zanu PF Women’s League secretary, and also notwithstanding the serious economic challenges facing Zimbabwe that require the urgent attention of senior government officials.
In addition, not only did the cash-strapped Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) cover the rally live once again — a special and costly exercise that is usually reserved for her husband — Grace also proceeded to delve into government policies, as well as issuing instructions to ministers present at the gathering.
One after another, the ministers and other Zanu PF bigwigs who spoke at the rally held in Chimanimani went to town praising the 50-year-old First Lady, in an embarrassing spectacle that left many people wondering about the ruling party’s so-called one-centre of power mantra that should only see Mugabe eulogised.
Most of the officials who graced the rally were those linked to the G40, which is locked in a bitter power struggle with the Mnangagwa faction. Indeed, the VP’s supporters — who had initially pushed to have the rally held in Mutare rather than at Mutambara Mission — sat dejectedly in the tents, sulking.
Among the dozens of ministers who abandoned their posts to be at yesterday’s rally were War Veterans minister Chris Mutsvangwa, Indigenisation minister Patrick Zhuwao, Media and Information minister Chris Mushowe, Local Government minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, Energy minister Samuel Undenge, and Information Communication Technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira.