Robert Mugabe yesterday said he was toying with the idea of appointing a third Vice-President to manage the Zanu PF succession conundrum, as his wife, Grace, challenged him to name a successor.
Grace set the cat among the pigeons at a Zanu PF women’s league meeting when she openly challenged her 93-year-old husband to anoint a successor.
“I have told people that there will be no succession without Mugabe,” Grace said to wild applause from those in attendance.
“I have argued with him (Mugabe) and told him that he has a right not only to participate in the succession process, but a right to anoint his chosen successor.
His word is final and mark my words it is coming.”
Women’s league secretary for administration Letina Undenge then led the group in singing Uri musoja usatye (Do not be scared you are a soldier), apparently urging Mugabe to bite the bullet and make the announcement.
In the unrestrained rant, as a bemused Mugabe fidgeted in his chair, Grace reminded the Zanu PF leader that other leaders across the world had anointed their successors and it would not be peculiar for the Zanu PF strongman to do so.
“In some countries leaders choose their successors, (former South African President Nelson) Mandela anointed (Thabo) Mbeki,” she said.
“Tell us who you want to lead us and we will campaign for that person.
“We just want your word and it’s done. You must not be scared.”
Zanu PF is currently embroiled in a bitter succession scrap with two distinct factions — one loyal to Grace and another to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Grace, in her address, complained bitterly to Mugabe about his failure to respond to women’s league demands for a woman in the presidium.
“For years now, women have asked the leadership of the party to change the constitution of the party and allow for a woman vice-president.
“Resolutions have been passed, in particular at the Victoria Falls and Masvingo conferences, but nothing has been done.
“We continue to wait for answers on this issue and we had wanted this done before the 2019 congress.
“We also want the party to align the party’s constitution to the national Constitution to allow for 50-50 representation in both the party’s organs and State institutions.
“However, what we have seen is continued male dominance and we have been moving painstakingly slow in this regard.”
When he finally took to the podium, Mugabe vacillated, first telling his audience to follow procedures and write to the politburo so that the issue would be discussed at central committee level, before suggesting an amendment to the party’s rules to allow for three deputy presidents.
“We came here to listen and we have been good listeners,” he said, referring to himself in plural.
“We have heard your complaints and recommendations.
“We hope you will write to the politburo and allow this to be discussed at central committee level.
“As a party, we cannot afford to ignore your recommendations.
“We are sorry if the women’s league is offended (by the delay) and we shall stop it.”
But as the Zanu PF leader rumbled on about the country’s history, the liberation struggle and Zanu PF’s wartime principles, he then made a stunning suggestion.
“I also have two suggestions that I would want you to consider,” he said.
“My suggestion is that we leave things as they are at the top and consider the idea of three vice-presidents to add a woman to the two.
“The other would be to revert to the original position and amend the constitution, then go to congress. I want you to think about that.”
Mugabe also seemed to rein in the country’s securocrats, who have been increasingly commenting on civilian issues, in what appeared to be a thinly-veiled attack on Zimbabwe Defence Forces boss, General Constantino Chiwenga.
“As regards the military, they have no business interfering in politics,” he said.
“That would be a coup and we have always said it is the politics that leads the gun and not the gun leading politics.”
Chiwenga has been engaged in a war of words with Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, a leading proponent of a faction of Zanu PF known as G40 which is bitterly opposed to Mnangagwa’s bid for the ruling party’s most coveted job.