President Robert Mugabe's wife Grace on Wednesday received a major boost as chiefs and government ministers gave her a "blank cheque for higher office" in Zanu PF.

With her position as the Women's League national secretary all but secured, there is no doubt that the flamboyant businesswoman is being primed for bigger things through flattery and rising sycophantism at her meetings.

Zanu PF is presently torn between two battling factions, one reportedly led by Vice President Joice Mujuru and the other by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Prospects of a third force have, however, been bandied about, with party officials jostling to give the first lady a ringing endorsement in a bid to curry favour with her husband.

On Tuesday, chiefs, their spouses and ministers, demonstrated that they were ready to give Grace all the power she wants.

With her election to head the Women's League virtually assured at a party congress in December, she will take a seat in Zanu PF's politburo.

Amid speculation that Grace is planning countrywide "thank you" rallies, there are also suggestions that she will use the indabas to galvanise support for a higher position in the party. There are fears that Grace is being moulded to become the next President.

Speaking at her Mazowe farm on Tuesday, Grace said she was ready to be the "monya (bouncer) for hire".

Chiefs lined up to back her, with some literally grovelling and likening Mugabe's wife to the country's venerated spirit medium Mbuya Nehanda. Born Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana, the famed svikiro (spirit medium) provided inspiration against white settlers in pre-independent Zimbabwe.

Martin Dinha, the Mashonaland Central governor and State Minister, said as a province, they were ready to defend Grace's elevation.

"We are more blessed than all of you," Dinha said. "In this province, we saw it fit that she (Grace) should stay in Mbuya Nehanda's territory. This is a sacred land that is managed by Mai Mugabe."

Dinha said the first lady, a former typist, was "an intelligent person who deserves to lead the country."

Just as the chiefs' appearance at her Mazowe orphanage was a huge surprise, so much has been the flattery that the first lady's manoeuvres to grab adjacent properties to build the sprawling facility were said to be part of her efforts to support Zanu PF's economic blueprint ZimAsset.

"I was one of the few people who believed that her projects would not materialise up," Dinha said. "This is one project that came true. She (Grace) started ZimAsset before we even knew we would have it."

Referring to the first lady as a "loving mother", the fawning governor said he was ready to fight for her ascendancy.

"Mother, do not be scared, the country is fully behind you, even if we are insulted or beaten hatikendenge (we do not care). No doubt, amai, tinomira nemi (we will stand by you)."

Dinha added: "December achisvika pindai pamunoda (Come December, get into any position of your choice)."

Grace's entrance into the Zanu PF political arena has ruffled feathers in the ruling party.

Her backers are now called  "Mazoe Crush", and the name specifically refers to her "queen makers" Oppah Muchinguri and Edna Madzongwe, the two party officials who proposed her for the Women's League top job.

Dinha said: "Ichi chitima cherusununguko. Ukaregera kujambira unosara (This is a freedom train, if you do not join the bandwagon, you will be left behind)."

Chiefs and their spouses, who came to Harare ostensibly for a meeting with minister Ignatius Chombo and were later taken to the first lady's farm, were en-route to Gweru where they are currently attending a meeting.

They were taken around the first family's ever-expanding empire and treated to the best cuisine. They were impressed.

Chief Musarurwa summed up the feeling among the traditional leaders, who were donning their red gowns lined with purple, the royal colour.

"Ndimi maita nyakasikana muchengeti wevanhu. Isu tinoti tongai, anonyunyuta ngaanyunyute. Muri amai vedu chete kusvika narinhi. (Thank you, you have become Nehanda, the one who takes care of the people. As chiefs, we say you should rule and those who are against you can complain all they want but you are our mother forever)."

Critics say Mugabe, by backing his wife's entry into politics, is subtly creating a monarch. But president of the Chiefs' Council Fortune Charumbira said even in popular churches, it was now common cause that the church could be led by the prophetess when the prophet is not around.

"Hatred will be there. If you are not challenged during your rise, that is not healthy," Charumbira said.

Joel Biggie Matiza, the deputy Local Government minister, said Grace's business empire was a clear indication that she was ready for the big role.

"Mhepo inonaka iyi, maoko emunhu mumwe chete. Hauite zvinhu izvi zvichirotwa, haasi ma building chete asi pane mamwe ma programme ekuti ukamatarisa, vamwe munobuda misodzi (We are breathing fresh air because of one person. She does not have the orphanage but other programmes which can evoke tears).

"She has leadership qualities," Matiza said.

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