- Published on 17 October 2014
- Written by The Zimbabwean
Dr Grace Mugabe is set to deputise her husband after a cabinet reshuffle that will follow the Zanu (PF) congress before taking over from him some time next year - if a new factional strategy succeeds.
The game plan, reportedly hatched by the Emmerson Mnangagwa faction and said to involve Saviour Kasukuwere and Jonathan Moyo, entails changing the party's tradition of putting senior party officials in senior government posts. In the past, the two party vice presidents have automatically been handed the same posts in government.
"It's not clear yet what will happen at congress. However, in the event that Mai (Joice) Mujuru manages to retain her post as first vice president, the Mnangagwa faction will counter that by ensuring that she remains in the party only and is blocked from government business," said a senior party member on condition of anonymity.
"The ultimate objective is to ensure that the First Lady (Grace) lands the senior cabinet vice presidency in preparation to take over from President Mugabe, possibly by March next year," he added.
The Mnangagwa faction is said to be plotting to have a new cabinet announced in December before Mugabe goes on leave. It will ensure that a resolution is passed at congress to provide for the two party vice presidents to be relegated to party duties at the discretion of the politburo and the president.
"It is envisaged that the politburo that will emerge after congress will be dominated by supporters of Grace and Mnangagwa. That will make it easier to make decisions that ensure the plot succeeds," added the source.
He said the Mnangagwa faction, capitalising on Grace's influence over her husband, would persuade him to announce his retirement possibly on his birthday in February.
According to the new constitution, the president's immediate subordinate will take over from him in the event of his premature departure, meaning that Grace would rule under the close eye of the Mnangagwa faction until the next elections in 2018.
"Mugabe will remain the head of the party during the period up to 2018. There are chances that many changes would be made to the party constitution during this period to entrench Grace's power in Zanu (PF)," said another source. "Remember, Mujuru would have been reduced to a lame duck and everything will be happening in government and the politburo".
The initial plan, said the second source, was for Mnangagwa to take over from Mugabe by February but there had been a change in strategy to make way for Grace as that had better chances of succeeding since people dare not challenge her openly.
While it remains possible that Simon Khaya Moyo, the current party chairperson, could land the junior vice presidency at congress, sources said he would also be blocked from becoming a deputy president in government.
The Mnangagwa faction reportedly prefers a weak candidate to play second fiddle to the First Lady in government, most likely Kembo Mohadi, the Home Affairs minister, while the faction leader remains in the background as a kingmaker.
Mohadi has already made known his wish to contest for the second vice presidency in the party. Once Grace takes over Jonathan Moyo and Kasukuwere are likely to be rewarded with influential cabinet positions as some of the big brains behind the plot.
Already, plans are underway to ensure that Mugabe gets exclusive authority to determine the composition of cabinet, apparently at the behest of the Mnangagwa faction.
The Mnangagwa plan reportedly includes ensuring that Didymus Mutasa, the current legal affairs secretary and senior minister in Mugabe's office who has openly backed Mujuru, is removed from the politburo and government.
Oppah Muchinguri, strongly linked to the Mnangagwa faction, recently referred to Grace as "Her Excellency" and announced that she had been anointed Mugabe's chief advisor.
Grace announced during a recent meet-the-people tour that she received a vision of being a ruler "in heaven" and said she was ready to ascend to a high post after being mentored by her husband over the years.