FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe is today set to be anointed the new Zanu PF Women’s League boss-designate as she steps into the political arena ahead of the party’s December elective congress, it has emerged.
She will take over the post currently held by Oppah Muchinguri, giving her a ticket to march into the ruling party’s politburo. Muchinguri, who was said to be in support of Grace’s move, would be given another influential politburo post, according to the sources.
Party insiders confirmed that hundreds of Women’s League members, including provincial chairpersons and other executive members, would converge at Mugabe’s Gushungo business empire in Mazowe to endorse her candidature.
The Women’s League members were converging under the guise of celebrating Grace’s 49th birthday. The First Lady turned 49 on Wednesday.
“Tomorrow [today], different women from different provinces will be converging in Mazowe. A minimum of two buses with delegates from each of the 10 provinces in the country will be heading to Gushungo Estate. The agenda is to endorse the First Lady as leader of the Women’s League,” a senior party member said.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo yesterday, however, said he was not aware of the developments.
“I don’t know anything about it. This can simply be rumours,” Gumbo said.
Muchinguri was not reachable for comment last night, but other Zanu PF top officials who declined to be named insisted that the meeting would take place, saying the First Lady’s entrance into politics was meant to block certain individuals who were trying to “hijack” the party as infighting fuelled by the succession issue escalated.
An official said Grace became more interested in national politics after it emerged that a section in Zanu PF was pushing for her husband to quit before his five-year term of office expires in 2018.
Zanu PF is currently embroiled in serious infighting between a faction reportedly led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and another allegedly headed by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The sources said the Mnangagwa faction believes that the Mujuru faction was using party organs, like the women and youth leagues, to hijack the party and push Mugabe out of power, hence the move to elevate Grace to neutralise the Vice-President’s influence.
“Mnangagwa and army generals are reportedly backing Grace’s move, which they see as a way of neutralising the Mujuru faction,” a politburo member said yesterday.
He said those pushing for the First Lady’s elevation were members of the Mugabe Team, a different faction whose leader will be the First lady.
“She will become the political mother of Zanu PF, an unofficial title currently being claimed by Mujuru. By becoming Women’s League boss, Grace will be a formidable political figure even post-Mugabe. She will ensure that Mugabe’s legacy is respected, and protect her family interests,” the Zanu PF official said.
Party members who spoke to the News Crew yesterday said the only headache was that Grace would not qualify to run for a post in the party’s national structures as she did not meet the recently announced stringent election guidelines. Grace does not have five years in the party’s provincial structures.
“But the guidelines are likely to be ignored to ensure the ascendancy of the First Lady,” said another source.
Zanu PF recently announced new election guidelines that would see people who have not served for 15 consecutive years in the party, barred from contesting for positions in the central committee.
Those who were in support of Grace’s rise are arguing that the First Lady should sit in the politburo, the same way the late First Lady, Sally, did.
Grace has been emerging as a powerful political force in Zanu PF with some party bigwigs said to be abandoning their factions to rally behind her.