HARARE – Powerful First Lady Grace Mugabe is at the centre of the warring Zanu PF’s latest factional and succession inferno, which is threatening anew the future of the troubled former liberation movement.
By Fungai Kwaramba
Consistently-reliable Zanu PF sources told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that President Robert Mugabe’s influential wife was “most unhappy” with embattled women’s league heavyweights Eunice Sandi Moyo and Sarah Mahoka, resulting in the party demonstrations of the past few days against the duo.
This comes as the key women’s organ, backed by party youths, is apparently fighting hard for an extra-ordinary congress to push through their contentious resolution for a female to become one of Zanu PF’s two vice presidents.
“It is an open secret that Sandi and Mahoka have fallen out with Dr Amai (Grace). Unless there is a dramatic change of events, it’s now a matter of when the two will fall, rather than whether,” one of the well-placed sources said.
Another party bigwig said although the public had been “fed” the story that the duo were under the cosh for allegedly undermining Grace and abusing funds, the “real issue is purely a power battle within the women’s league”.
This was after one of the two women, which the Daily News on Sunday understands to be Sandi Moyo, recently shocked the league by allegedly openly declaring her interest in becoming the woman Zanu PF VP when the women’s quota system kicks in.
“This could not have happened at a worse time as the party is already consumed by its factional and succession wars which you all know about.
“The really fear now is that this fight in the women’s league has the potential to get uglier and suck everyone in the party, with deadly and far-reaching repercussions, including in terms of who will eventually succeed the president (Mugabe),” the second source said.
With age and poor health continuing to dog Mugabe, those close to the nonagenarian are also said to be “anxious” about ensuring that Zanu PF’s succession problem is resolved as soon as possible — hence the fresh party purges that have brought back ugly memories of the 2014 expulsions of former vice president Joice Mujuru and hundreds of other bigwigs, including 14 Cabinet ministers.
A women’s league source also told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that tomorrow’s planned meeting of the organ in Harare was likely to be a heated affair, amid growing worries of “a third force” working hard to confuse key party players.
“Yes, it is true that Sandi-Moyo directly asked amai whether she is interested in becoming the vice president if we push through an extra-ordinary congress where the women’s quota clause will be implemented and amai said she was not interested.
“This prompted Sandi to say she would be interested probably using the Unity Accord route, which means that in that event she would replace Vice President (Phelekezela) Mphoko.
“This was the beginning of her problems because we understand even Mphoko was alarmed by this and then teamed up with amai to fight back.
“Sandi’s approach also gave the unfortunate impression that she was running with the idea mooted by angry war veterans aligned to Team Lacoste, who have proposed the same thing, which would mean Mphoko being kicked out and Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa surviving,” the women’s league bigwig said.
She also accused Zanu PF central committee member Jimayi Muduvuri of being “a regime change merchant” who was allegedly behind much of the recent chaos in the women’s league and the party generally.
“The discussion in some sections of the league now is that Amai herself wants to become vice president at the party’s next congress later this year.
“And contrary to the prevailing misconceptions, the current purges are not going to benefit Team Lacoste.
“If anything, they actually signal that amai is serious and that she will remove anything that threatens her bid, including her former allies,” the women’s league source said.
Zanu PF is presently divided along two main factions — Team Lacoste and the Generation 40 (G40) group. The latter had for long been linked to Grace until the unexpected purges of her former key allies, Mahoka and Sandi-Moyo.
While this is happening, another party source claimed, Team Lacoste had taken advantage of the current chaos and was allegedly using it to target its party foes that included national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and Harare province political commissar Shadreck Mashayamombe.
Yesterday, Kasukuwere took the unusual step of accusing his fellow senior Zanu PF officials, through The Herald, of abusing State media to suck him into a women’s league issue.
But with the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections around the corner, political analysts told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that Zanu PF was unlikely to expel any of its legislators as what happened in 2014.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, said expulsions of those who were a threat to Grace’s ascendancy were an unlikely “extreme sanction”.
“What we may witness is demotion and suspension of party bigwigs. They cannot afford to expel them ahead of the 2018 elections because they need to increase their support base,” he said.
Another political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, said the chaos engulfing Zanu PF was “just another sign that Zanu PF is at war with itself”.
“The party is fractured and heavily factionalised. The only fabric tying it together is the perceived, albeit illusionary power Mugabe has.
“They all fear and respect him at the same time and he reigns over them by a combination of divide and rule, plus his use of the carrot and stick. He knows how to play them,” he said.
With the economy on its knees and Zanu PF failing to provide relief to long suffering Zimbabweans, another political observer Dewa Mavhinga said Mugabe was trying to buy time and ensure that he did not deal with the succession issue now as was being demanded by both the opposition and Zanu PF followers.
“The current chaos helps Mugabe to skirt around the elephant in the room, his succession, and to keep restless factions at bay.
“It also helps to demonstrate Mugabe’s unassailable power and control of Zanu PF in its entirety,” Mavhinga said.