Is Grace Mugabe making surreptitious manoeuvres?


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ZIMBABWE – During Sikhanyiso Ndlovu’s burial at the national shrine on Saturday, mourners were treated to a sideshow as Zanu PF youths fought over messages printed on T-shirts worn by the Mbare Chimurenga Choir. 

The T-shirts had pictures of Mugabe and the late Father Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo at the front and a message in Shona, “munhu wese kuna amai” printed at the back.

As far as I can remember Zanu PF party regalia — from floppy hats, berets, shirts, T-shirts, jackets and dresses — had always featured just President Robert Mugabe’s pictures. Some pictures of him smiling or sloganeering, with a fist punching the air.

Since Mugabe is now advanced in age and his inner circle jostles for positions of influence, a new dimension appears to have presented itself. His wife, Grace. Last year the First Lady went on a campaign trail threatening and exposing everybody she deemed to be rallying behind former vice-president Joice Mujuru in her alleged quest to clandestinely wrestle power from Mugabe.

She called the “Gamatox” people names, humiliated them, culminating in Mujuru losing her position both in the party and government. After successfully dealing with “her enemy”, she has now assumed a new role.

She seems wary of people who might want to pull the rug from under the President’s feet. She guards the throne jealously. Reports say before she left for New York last Tuesday, she ordered a clean-up of the President’s Office following Mugabe’s reading of a wrong speech in Parliament. Instead of opening the Third Session of the Eighth Parliament, Mugabe went through a speech he had presented three weeks back during his State of the Nation Address.

But as the First Lady fends off vultures and ambitious lieutenants, a new angle to Zanu PF succession politics appears to emerge. That line, “munhu wese kuna amai” [everybody in support of the mother (Grace)] has had serious connotations and implications on the Zanu PF body politic. It speaks to succession politics in a subtle way.

That slogan made sense last year when she took over leadership of the party women’s league. Then, it was meant to encourage all women to support the First Lady. But this time around, it is that line which was the bone of contention at Heroes Acre. Some Zanu PF supporters wanted that slogan explained.

Shadreck Mashayamombe (Harare South MP) was roughed up for protecting members of the choir and the women in turn threatened to undress in protest against what they viewed as harassment by fellow Zanu PF members; youths in particular.

Through that slogan, could Grace Mugabe and her supporters be stealthily working our minds to accept her as a leader? Could she be surreptitiously creeping on to the national psyche? Who is directing people to the First Lady when the power rests with the President? Do we now have a new centre of power?

While some people are saying there are people abusing her name, I beg to differ. There are instances when it was abused, like when Zanu PF youths extorted land-hungry people through housing co-operatives named after her a few months ago.

However, this message on T-shirts is a covert way of campaigning. The more people get used to that line, the more it rings normal and before we know it, Zanu PF as we know it now could change.

Why has Grace not come out in the open to dissociate herself from that slogan? Why has she not protested against her pictures being plastered everywhere, including on buses, if she is not aiming for the throne?

I am afraid her open efforts at working the national psyche and the open fights appear a clear confirmation the First Lady is up to something.

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