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First Lady Grace Mugabe has moved to dump Zanu PF's beleaguered "Gang of Four" and is more and more aligning herself with Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa after apparently realising that she was being used by the allegedly manipulative group.

The sobriquet Gang of Four was first coined by liberation struggle icon Rugare Gumbo in an exclusive interview with the Daily News late last year at the height of Zanu PF's internal wars, drawing parallels between the group and an infamous Chinese gang that once enforced harsh policies within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The group's alleged members then were President Robert Mugabe's nephew Patrick Zhuwao, Water minister Saviour Kasukuwere, Information minister Jonathan Moyo and Higher Education minister Oppah Muchinguri.

But recent reports suggested that the group had since split due to conflicting interests, mistrust and the over-weening ambition of some of the members.

Well-placed sources told the Daily News yesterday that Mugabe's controversial wife, Grace, who was seen as the godmother of the group, had now realised that some of its members were hellbent on using her to influence the succession issue in Zanu PF in a manner that would suit and favour them — "even if this came at her expense".

"The First Lady has realised that she was being used by the Gang of Four which is not interested in her. Their praise-singing of her last year was just meant to waylay her into believing that she had the power and influence in the party. They rightly knew that what she had was the ear of the president and thus, were able to speak indirectly to the president through her," a Zanu PF politburo member said.

Another source claimed that it was some members of the Gang of Four who had "manipulated and departed from normal established protocol in government" to unilaterally push for the recent shambolic announcement of the cancellation of civil servants' bonuses — a move that angered both Grace and Mugabe.

As a result, the source added, Moyo and Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa were facing the chop, as Mugabe was "determined to weed out all the malcontents who acted disgustingly in this debacle" — even though Moyo had moved swiftly to distance himself from the mess on social media.

The politburo member who spoke to the news crew said it had not helped the Gang of Four that Kasukuwere had also allegedly fallen out of favour with the First Family over his "factional and divisive" handling of Zanu PF's ongoing restructuring programme — where the young minister, nicknamed Tyson, was allegedly imposing his "cronies" in important party positions.

"There is a growing realisation that the Gang of Four is actually more vicious and more ambitious than Amai (former Vice President Joice) Mujuru. This is the gang that organised Amai Mugabe's divisive meet-the-people rallies.

"The group removed the obstacle that stood in their way (Mujuru) to assume power and they are now going for Mnangagwa. However, the First Lady is very clever and knows that the balance of power is now in favour of Mnangagwa. She is not going to risk her future and anger the likeliest successor of her aged husband," the top official said.

Kasukuwere also recently crossed swords with his former close ally Muchinguri — who has since publicly said that some of her senior party colleagues want the Young Turk, now also referred to as Obama by his supporters, to replace Mugabe and Mnangagwa in Zanu PF.

Insiders also claim that Muchinguri has released a "treasure trove of information" nailing the Gang of Four, after she fell out with the group and rejoined the party faction led by Mnangagwa.

Smelling the coffee, Zhuwao is also said to be stepping back from the group, which is nowadays also seen as one and the same with the party's so-called Generation 40, as it becomes apparent that his uncle, Mugabe and wife are not very happy with the ambitions of some of its members.

Apart from crossing the path of Mugabe and Grace, the Gang of Four, has also apparently peeved Mnangagwa by reversing his decisions and at times ignoring his orders.

For instance, it is alleged that in Harare East the Gang of Four attempted to impose Lovemore Mukupe — "a person with no traceable party history" — in an endeavour to block Mavis Gumbo, a key ally of Mnangagwa, from representing Zanu PF in the forthcoming by-elections scheduled for June 10.

"It is also well-known in the party that two weeks ago the Vice President (Mnangagwa) instigated the suspension of acting Mashonaland East provincial chairperson Aeneas Chigwedere but Kasukuwere as Zanu PF political commissar reversed this, which angered the VP's allies," another source said last week.

Another source seen as close to Mnangagwa also said then that it was the "stupid suspension of bonuses" that had particularly left Mugabe enraged, adding that the tendency by some of the members of the group to "abuse Amai (Grace)" in a cunning bid to have their agendas sail through uncontested had started to backfire.

It is also claimed that Mugabe has over the past few weeks been inundated with incriminating information about members of the Gang of Four/Generation 40, who stand accused of running parallel structures that are in conflict with those of the nonagenarian and Mnangagwa.

Kasukuwere's phones went unanswered when we tried to reach him for comment while Moyo did not respond to text messages sent yesterday.

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