HARARE – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s wife Thursday denied harbouring ambitions to succeed her husband, pledging instead to support the 91-year-old’s next presidential bid.
“I am standing here as the wife of the president as well as the person you chose to lead the women’s league. It ends there,” she told ruling party supporters at a rally in the capital.
“I do not need any other position.”
Grace Mugabe, 50, said her focus is on leading the ZANU-PF women’s wing and that she would support Mugabe when he seeks re-election, even if he is wheelchair-bound by then.
“Some have laughed at me saying Mugabe’s wife must be mad. I said we will put Mr Mugabe in a wheelchair and go for elections,” she told a crowd of about 5,000 supporters.
Zimbabwe’s next presidential election will be held in 2018.
Mugabe is Africa’s oldest leader, and has been in power since independence in 1980.
Speculation is rife over his health with doubts as to whether he would be fit enough to campaign for re-election.
Grace has become increasingly powerful since her elevation last year to lead the ZANU-PF women’s wing.
Late last year she led a campaign to expel former vice-president Joice Mujuru who had been seen as Mugabe’s heir.
Many saw her as aiming to succeed Mugabe when she went on a series of rallies, and in one of her speeches said she had the right like any Zimbabwean to contest for any political position.
She bemoaned factionalism within ZANU-PF, saying it threatened to tear the party apart.
“Stop factionalism because factionalism is dividing the party.”
“You can only silence me by shooting me and killing me, you are not going to silence me. I am not going to be gagged, I am not going to be intimidated,” she said.
ZANU-PF has been riven by factionalism over Mugabe’s succession for years, with the veteran ruler avoiding naming a successor.
Meanwhile Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday sought to dispel growing claims within the ruling post-congress Zanu PF that he is locked in a vicious factional and succession war with First Lady Grace Mugabe.
This came after MDC MP for Kuwadzana East, Nelson Chamisa, asked the embattled VP during Parliament’s questions without notice whether he and President Robert Mugabe’s increasingly-influential wife had a cordial working relationship.
“Since you were appointed vice president, the first lady has been traversing the length and breadth of the nation addressing rallies attacking fellow party members?
“Are you affording a good sleep at home in the circumstances? Are you working well with her because the seemingly frosty relationship tends to affect investment?” Chamisa asked.
While many in the august House felt that Mnangagwa did not have to answer the question, the VP cunningly dealt with the hospital pass, retorting that the opposition had no business in the ruling party’s affairs and claiming that all was well within the former liberation movement.
“Ndabvunzwa nemuchinda uyu kuti ndinorara hope here. Iye avona kuti zvandimire pano handina kurara manheru here? Ko zvaanoziva mudzimai wangu (I have been asked if I am having sleepless nights as if I look like someone who did not sleep well last night. Chamisa knows my wife …) why doesn’t he ask her if I am having good nights?
“Concerning the first lady’s rallies, what business does he have in that when she addresses Zanu PF supporters? Is she going around the country addressing MDC rallies?” Mnangagwa asked rhetorically.
The VP, long seen as the most likely successor to Mugabe, is currently locked in a dogfight with the first lady’s supporters in Zanu PF’s deadly succession wars, the party’s ambitious Young Turks known as the Generation 40 (G40) group.
MDC legislator for Mkoba, Amos Chibaya had asked the vice president if, “with the current infighting in Zanu PF which has seen people die recently in Chitungwiza, government was still able to deliver on its mandate” and whether the conflicts do not scare away investors. But Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe was the most stable country in the region thanks to his party’s “able leadership”.
“I am aware the honourable members of this side of the House belong to the ruling party while those on the other side are opposition.
“I am not sure if the member who asked the question about Zanu PF infighting has crossed the floor to know the intricate details of what happens in our party. We in the ruling party are not aware of the infighting he is referring to. He talks about scaring investment but I do not think there is any country in the world that can say they have never had cases of murder”.
It had been suggested in the lead-up to yesterday’s parliamentary session that this week could prove to be one of the most important periods in the VP’s long political life, as the post-congress Zanu PF war to succeed Mugabe gets hotter and nastier by the day.
This was after Team Lacoste, as Mnangagwa’s camp is now referred to by his supporters in the warring ruling party, suffered two devastating blows at the weekend.
First, the party’s women’s league in Mashonaland West openly demanded the return of a women’s quota system in Zanu PF — a clear indication that they want Grace to take over from Mnangagwa as party vice president as soon as possible.
Secondly, the Midlands godfather’s bitter rivals, known as the Generation 40 (G40), swept the board in the party’s key Harare district elections — which means reduced influence in the former liberation movement’s citadel of power.
The first lady was also said to have lined up marathon rallies from today up to Saturday; high-octane events where “successionists” (G40 code for alleged succession-obsessed Mnangagwa supporters) can expect to come under the cosh.
Party insiders say the G40 are rabidly opposed to Mnangagwa succeeding the increasingly-frail Mugabe, and that the ambitious Young Turks are backing Grace to take over from her husband.
The Daily News’ sister paper, the Daily News on Sunday, reported exclusively at the weekend that Grace’s presumed ambitions to elbow out Mnangagwa in the post-congress Zanu PF’s bitter war to succeed Mugabe had got a massive boost on Saturday.
This followed the ruling party’s women’s league in Mashonaland West province openly demanding the return of the women’s quota system in the Zanu PF constitution, a clear statement that they want the first lady to take over from Mnangagwa as party vice president.
Mnangagwa, who has since late last year been heavily-tipped to take over from Mugabe, was derailed by the same policy in 2004 when the women’s league again pushed for the elevation of former Vice President Joice Mujuru to be one of the nonagenarian’s deputies.
Sources who attended the women’s league meeting and spoke to the Daily News on Sunday afterwards said there was “unanimous agreement” on the need for a woman to be in the party’s presidium — a move that confirmed what the Daily News accurately reported on last week.
Under this arrangement, the women — together with the G40 — will push for the party to revert to its old constitution at the Victoria Falls conference, so that among the party’s top three leaders “one shall be a woman”.
If this proposal is adopted, it will put paid to Mnangagwa’s long-mooted ambition to succeed Mugabe.
Sources also say all of Zanu PF’s provinces, except for Masvingo and Midlands, are pushing for Grace to become vice president as also exclusively revealed by the Daily News last week.
Meanwhile, senior Zanu PF official and Indigenisation minister Patrick Zhuwao has also savaged what he has described as “attempts by successionists to propagate narratives that seek to suggest that President Mugabe should announce a successor when he has not even completed half of his term”.
“Such successionists seek to hijack and steal president Mugabe’s mandate perhaps because of the realisation that their succession candidates are unelectable,” Zhuwao said, in a politically-pregnant statement at the weekend.
“It is necessary and important that all appointed officials in government and the politburo are reminded that they were appointed to assist the president and as such they must remain loyal and distance themselves from successionist narratives.
“Failure to do so confirms disloyalty to the one centre of power, president Mugabe,” Zhuwao added. – Plus Daily News