Zimbabwe First Lady Grace Mugabe’s alleged ambitions to succeed President Robert Mugabe are haunting Zanu PF again after a faction linked to her began distributing campaign T-shirts that have become a new source of friction.
The T-Shirts inscribed Vanhu vose kuna Amai (Let’s all rally behind the First Lady) were first distributed early this month at the launch of a Zanu PF housing project in Kadoma where Grace was the guest speaker.
Zanu PF officials against the 50-year-old former secretary’s alleged bid for the top post claimed the message on the T-shirts confirmed that she had joined the race to succeed her 91-year-old husband. Grace has to contend with Vice-Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mpoko if she wants to lead Zanu PF in the post-Mugabe era.
Mugabe early this year strenuously denied allegations his wife has presidential ambitions. Zanu PF sources said Grace’s presidential ambitions were confirmed by the call for the country to organise her 50th birthday bash this weekend. She turns 50 today. Mugabe has complained that Zanu PF was now coalescing around Mnangagwa or Mphoko in the battle to succeed him.
The subtle T-shirt campaign that has been blamed for the worsening factionalism across the country in particular in Manicaland province has added a new dimension in the fluid race to succeed Zimbabwe’s only ruler since independence.
Zanu PF sources told NewsDay, a faction aligned to Mnangagwa had been unsettled by the campaign.
“If all people go to the First Lady, who will go to President Mugabe,” a party official who declined to be named said.
“Those who support Mnangagwa to take over are not comfortable with the T-shirts and have started mobilising to annihilate the Grace Mugabe faction.
“We will see fresh votes of no-confidence being passed in the next few days against people perceived to be very loyal to the First Lady. Manicaland has already taken the lead.”
Some members of the Zanu PF Manicaland provincial executive on Tuesday passed a vote of no confidence on acting provincial chairman Samuel Undenge.
The Energy minister was accused of fanning factionalism. The sources said the axe was also hanging over Undenge’s wife Letina and central committee member Mandi Chimene. Undenge yesterday rubbished the move describing it as a non-event.
The sources said politburo member and transport secretary Oppah Muchinguri was leading the anti-Grace campaign after she was allegedly angered by the First Lady’s failure to ensure she landed a more influential position in return for her leading role in the onslaught against former Vice-President Joice Mujuru last year.
A Zanu PF source said Muchinguri had since joined Mnangagwa’s camp, home to part of the ruling party’s group of Young Turks commonly known as the G40.
“Letina is being punished for leading the province to attend Grace Mugabe’s Kadoma rally. She is seen as a Grace ally and they want to push her out, including the provincial youths,” the source added.
Muchinguri could not be reached for comment on her mobile phone yesterday. Letina and Gweru businesswoman Smelly Dube, Hurungwe East MP Sarah Mahoka and many others are believed to have played a critical role in organising the Kadoma rally.
The same group was reportedly taking a leading role in organising Grace’s 50th birthday bash.
“Grace openly praised Letina and Dube at a briefing before the Kadoma rally in the presence of (Deputy Information minister) Monica Mutsvangwa. This did not go well with members of the Mnangagwa camp,” the source said.
The same T-shirts are reportedly causing commotion in Masvingo where Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa was believed to have reservations on the message Dzimba Kuvanhu (Houses to the people) written at the back of them.
Mahofa yesterday said she was not aware of the existence of the T-shirts.
Last week, Mnangagwa’s wife, Auxillia, was said to have led a delegation to Grace’s orphanage in Mazowe, which spoke disparagingly about Dube.
However, they were reportedly ordered to stop backbiting fellow party members. Grace, who became more influential soon after her entry into politics last year, recently disclosed that Mnangagwa and Mphoko regulary took orders from her.
Zanu PF national spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo yesterday referred all questions to national political commissar (PC) Saviour Kasukuwere.
“I do not know anything about the T-shirts. I have not seen them. Ask the PC about them,” Khaya Moyo said.
Kasukuwere was yesterday unreachable on his mobile phone. He had not responded to a text message sent to him by the time of going to print.