Detractors of President Robert Mugabe’s increasingly influential wife, Grace — who is openly flaunting her higher ambitions and political power more and more — say she has little chance of ever leading Zimbabwe and winning free and fair elections in the country.
These sentiments come in the wake of the latest boast by the controversial First Lady that no one could stop her from aiming for the leadership of Zanu PF, and that even her nonagenarian husband, Mugabe, had failed to silence her and stop her from decapitating former Vice President Joice Mujuru.
But insiders and former ruling party stalwarts told the Daily News yesterday that the more that the gaffe-prone Grace moved to Critics claim she has ‘zero political capital’ amass power, the more unpopular and the more resistance she was getting both from within and outside the post-congres Zanu PF.
“Let us be honest, without the president, Dr Amai (Grace) is nothing. She can never win free and fair elections both within Zanu PF and nationally as she has zero political capital,” a central committee member said.
Two of the leading lights of the “original” Zanu PF formation, which is locked in mortal combat with Mugabe’s post-congress faction, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti and Rugare Gumbo, also say it is “impossible” that Grace — a former typist and switchboard operator in Mugabe’s office before she married the nonagenarian — could become the country’s next leader.
“It now seems as though Mugabe nemudzimai wake ndivo vava kutonga chete nyika vari vaviri (Mugabe and his wife appear to be ruling the country on their own at the moment). Is this democracy?
“However, they are wasting their time if they think Grace can win anything or rule this country after Mugabe,” Gumbo said emphatically.
On his part, the outspoken former minister of State for Masvingo, Bhasikiti, went further saying he was now convinced more than ever before that “no one in Zanu PF, including Mugabe, his wife (Grace) and (Vice President Emmerson) Mnangagwa can take the country to the promised land”.
“The only leader left in our country is the true leader with a genuine motherly heart, Dr Mujuru, who will put people first and is corruption-free both in her public and private lives. She is the only one who can take Zimbabwe to a prosperous destination and who has experience in dealing with everyone, from youths to war veterans, detainees, war collaborators and the poor.
“Zimbabweans no longer wish to be led by anyone above 70 years, for those people have reached the exit point even according to God’s divine plan of human existence,” Bhasikiti said.
Asked if Grace, who is just 50, could therefore lead the country, the former Mwenezi East legislator said sarcastically, “not in a thousand years” — even as he claimed that Zimbabweans were ready to see a female president.
“We recently saw Dr Joice Mujuru apologising to the entire nation for having been part of the misrule and socio-economic decline experienced by all Zimbabweans. Dr Mujuru acknowledged that it was time for contrition, reflection and correction of all the mistakes that had been made.
“These are important qualities of good leadership. On the other hand, Grace has demonstrated that she is a divisive leader, which leaves one with no doubt that our future lies with Mujuru,” Bhasikiti said.
He added that Zanu PF was now allegedly at “its wits’ end and no amount of law amendments will be able to address issues of economic decay and political misrule” in the country.
“The only solution is a new leadership which puts people first, not mere sloganeering and expedient old narratives of the liberation struggle. We are tired of talkers, we now want actors who can solve the country’s many problems,” Bhasikiti said.
Amid all this, both Grace and Mnangagwa spoke as if Mugabe was about to leave
office last week, fuelling speculation that the country’s sole leader since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in April 1980, may not be well.
Speaking at Murombedzi Growth Point, Grace said, “Don’t criticise me because you hate my husband. Time will come when president Mugabe is gone, (and at that point) you will regret and wish that the president was around” — in remarks that some in Zanu PF interpreted as meaning that all was not well with Mugabe.
On his part, Mnangagwa — answering a seemingly innocuous New African magazine question on the post-Mugabe scenario — said, “We shall miss him (Mugabe) dearly (when he leaves). He is an outstanding leader and human being” — in comments that placed him in the eye of a humongous storm in the ruling party which is wracked by deadly factional and succession wars.
Zanu PF insiders who spoke to the Daily News at the weekend said the hullabaloo about the well-being of Mugabe reflected the ugly divisions that continued to devour the ruling party, and how many ambitious bigwigs were already thinking about life after the nonagenarian who is increasingly showing his advanced age and declining health.
During the burial of High Court judge Andrew Mutema at the Heroes Acre at the weekend, Mugabe moved around with the assistance of Grace, taking several brief rests in the process.
And during the official opening of the Harare Agricultural Show, Mugabe moved around with the assistance of Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi.
In addition, the nonagenarian has also lately cut down on his typically long speeches as the calls for his retirement or resignation grow.
The analysts who spoke to the Daily News said Grace and Mnangagwa were “merely stating what Zimbabweans already know” about Mugabe’s age and state of health, noting further that the utterances were “shock absorbers for the nation to warm up to the reality”.