The plot to elevate Grace Mugabe to lead the Women’s League was hatched by the Mnangagwa faction in a desperate bid to frustrate vice president Joice Mujuru’s chances of succession.
Senior sources in Zanu (PF) said elements of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) were involved in the machinations to thwart Mujuru’s supremacy.
This sets the stage for a dog-eat-dog confrontation at the party’s electoral congress in December. Senior party sources said a powerful clique, to which Grace Mugabe, current Women’s League chair Oppah Muchinguri and senior party members Edna Madzongwe and Olivia Muchena belong, were jostling to get rid of Mujuru and national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo.
The sources said Mujuru’s position was already severely weakened after the CIO informed Mugabe that she harboured plans to remove him from party activities. The plan was for Temba Mliswa, the young Zanu (PF) provincial chairman for Mashonaland Central province, believed to belong to Mujuru’s faction, to move a surprise motion at the congress for Mugabe to confine himself to government business and take a back seat in party affairs.
“The plan was for Mliswa to stand up, thank the president for his sterling work and suggest that given the hectic nature of party affairs, he must allow Mai Mujuru to head the day-to-day party affairs while he concentrates on government business. Mugabe would be told that he remained the party leader – but the ultimate goal would be for people to agree that he takes a less active role to allow Mujuru to consolidate her power,” said the source.
“The assumption was that there would be enough people to push the motion through and spring a surprise, without appearing as though there was a coup against the president.”
When The Zimbabwean checked with Mliswa, he dismissed the claims as the work of his enemies. “This is said by people with personal agendas. As you know, I am not everybody’s friend. Zanu (PF) is a party of order and I would not be seen doing that as leaders are chosen before congress and endorsed at the event. President Mugabe is my only leader,” he said.
Sources said Mugabe, who was already suspicious of Mujuru, got wind of the plan and started moves to undermine her. “This culminated in Mai Mugabe (Grace) being offered the post to chair the Women’s League with the concurrence of the likes of Oppah (Muchinguri) and Madam Madzongwe, in addition to other powerful male party members and some sections of CIO,” said the source. As part of his plan to weaken Mujuru, Mugabe has reportedly agreed to throw open competition for the positions of the party’s two vice presidents – despite the Zapu-Zanu Unity Accord stipulation that one VP and the chairman of the party must come from Zapu.
Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi and former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono have been named as the clique’s preferred candidates.
“Gono is Mai Mugabe’s favourite, but he faces a hurdle in that he has not held a senior party position as required by the new rules. However, there is room to break the rules and that is possible if the Women’s League backs it. All they need to do is to dance, shout and whistle at congress and their wishes will carry the day,” said the source.
“Gono and Sekeramayi might end up as the two vice presidents,” said another highly-placed source – although this would mark an unprecedented departure from the Unity Accord and would be opposed vigorously by the old Zapu.
The powerful Women’s League is said to have already started pressuring for its preferred candidates. They want Muchinguri to stand for national chairperson, against Didymus Mutasa. Transport Minister Obert Mpofu is also eyeing the position.
Zanu (PF) spokesperson Rugare Gumbo recently told this newspaper that the Zanu (PF) leadership was a straitjacketed by its constitution, through which Mujuru, Mutasa and Khaya-Moyo were the recognised members of the presidium outside Mugabe.