Grace Mugabe has become the new stage for intense Zanu (PF) factional fights, with the camp led by Joice Mujuru recently devising a cocktail of strategies to dilute her influence.
The strategies, sources say, entail indirectly countering the group led by Emmerson Mnangagwa and isolating Grace politically.
The President’s wife was “unanimously” endorsed as candidate for the Women’s League leader ahead of the Zanu (PF) elective congress set for December, but the Mujuru camp sees her as a Mnangagwa project.
Mujuru, Mugabe’s deputy in government and in the party, and Mnangagwa, the party legal affairs secretary, have for long been entangled in a turf war to succeed President Robert Mugabe.
Even though the two have publicly denied leading the factions, Mugabe earlier this year acknowledged that they were behind two camps that he accused of dividing party supporters.
“We are not against Amai (Grace Mugabe) as such. We have come to realise that she is a creation of the Mnangagwa camp and she is willing to work along with it because it also strengthens her position,” said a female member of the party’s powerful decision making committee who hails from Mashonaland Central province.
“We will do all that we can to make sure that our rivals in the Mnangagwa faction do not gain ground through her. We have decided to be cautious with whatever she does,” she said.
She said they had started spreading the word among Mujuru loyalists in the women’s and youths leagues throughout the country to boycott events called in the name of Grace, warning them that the gatherings were being used by the rival camp to gain popularity ahead of the congress.
They were already making inroads because their preferred candidates won most of the influential positions in the respective leagues’ elections that took place recently, added the source.
Contrary to initial claims, she said, Grace was not unanimously endorsed to lead the Women’s League at separate events attended by thousands of youths and women at the Amai Grace Mugabe Children’s Home in Mazowe, Mashonaland Central.
“In fact, most women who went to Mazowe were ambushed. While some supported Amai’s elevation, others remained passive as they suspected the Mnangagwa faction was up to some dirty tricks. However, all our members now know the truth and that camp is in for a shock,” she said.
Grace stole the thunder from Mujuru when the Women’s League conference kicked off in Harare last week, but the central committee member said the thunderous applause the First Lady received from the auditorium was a rehearsed act by the Mnangagwa faction.
She acknowledged that Grace was guaranteed to get the Women’s League top post, even though the Mujuru camp had considered clandestinely querying her suitability but “we don’t want to be seen as though we are fighting our president (Mugabe)”.
“Amai will not unite the factions because she is seen to be among our rivals. Instead, her elevation has forced us to look for new weapons to fight the Mnangagwa faction,” she said.
New Zanu (PF) rules stipulate that in order to hold a national position one must have served in the party for an uninterrupted 15 years and have held a position in provincial structures. But Grace does not meet these requirements.
Contacted for comment, Mujuru advised the news crew to arrange for a face-to-face interview with her aide, Patricia Parwada.
“I would love to talk to you about this but cannot do it over the phone, so arrange for a one-on-one interview with Patricia,” said Mujuru when she returned a missed call. However, the meeting had not materialised at the time of going to print.
Another party provincial committee member from Mashonaland Central told said they would have secretly campaigned for a rival candidate if Grace had not been imposed on them as a unanimous candidate.
“We admit that Mnangagwa beat us on this one (by having Grace endorsed as the sole candidate for the women’s league position) but that does not mean we have been defeated. We will fight to ensure that those who led her endorsement suffer,” she said.
Edna Madzongwe, a party stalwart, and Oppah Muchinguri, the outgoing women’s league boss, led the endorsement.
The second source said they would de-campaign Muchinguri, who is reportedly gunning for the position of party administration secretary or, more remotely, that of Zanu (PF) national chairperson.
Muchinguri has been fighting from Mnangagwa’s corner against the Mujuru faction.
“This is Oppah’s end. She will not win in any higher position because we have the numbers. Once she is out and Madzongwe and Mai (Olivia) Muchena (who also played an active role in elevating Grace) are diluted, Amai will be isolated among the women and youths and she will be forced to align with our camp,” added the source.
Muchinguri’s phone was answered by a woman who identified herself as her daughter Tanya. The outspoken politician did not respond to subsequent calls. Mnangagwa’s mobile phones were not reachable.