Outgoing Zanu PF Women's League boss Oppah Muchinguri yesterday stunned the political fraternity when she proposed that First Lady Grace Mugabe succeed President Robert Mugabe as Zimbabwe's head of State.
Muchinguri dropped the bombshell at Grace's rally at the Harare City Sports Centre, with one observer describing the proposal as "too farcical to be real", while another said it was "too disturbing to be funny".
The proposal comes as Zanu PF is embroiled in ugly factional and succession fights in which supporters of Vice President Joice Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa have been going for each other's throats over the past few months.
Muchinguri also claimed that Grace's supporters had handpicked her to stem the vicious infighting in Zanu PF, suggesting further that this was the reason why the First Lady needed to succeed her 90-year-old husband.
As she introduced Grace to party supporters who filled the rally venue to the rafters, an exuberant Muchinguri said Harare province was meeting the "Queen".
"Nhasi tatsikwa na (We have been graced by the) Queen Mother, the Queen of Queens. We looked at the person who has people at heart, who is accessible, who is humble, and it is Dr Grace. We are tired of boastful leaders. The person who has love for widows and orphans is Dr Grace. She is not a boastful leader. First Lady pane mamwe mafirst lady, ungatoti vakavhoterwa vangatoita President. (She is a First Lady among first ladies, if she is voted, she can easily FROM P1 become president.) She is a real war veteran," Muchinguri said.
This endorsement of Grace as a national leader from Muchinguri comes despite the fact that the First Lady has no history of having participated in Zimbabwe's 16-year war of liberation — a previous pre-requisite for leadership positions in Zanu PF.
"Things had become bad because of factionalism. People were no longer respectful. Ndikamira na chairlady zvonzi ari mufaction yanhingi, ndikada kumira naava (Harare Zanu PF provincial chairperson Amos) Midzi, zvonzi uri faction yanhingi (they would say I belong to that faction). I believe that with Amai vane (who has) access, ndiro tsime reduka (she is our well of relief). Muchinguri anga akuti akada kuita meeting, zvonzi hatimude muprovince medu, asi ndiri mukuru weWomen's League, interference ichiitika. (If I want to hold meetings, people say we don't want her in our province but I'm the women's league boss.)
"Zvino pana Dr Grace Mugabe muchaita zvetuma meetings twepaside here? Hazvichagoneke, zvaoma izvi, zva binder. Ndo dhiri rakarongwa (Now that there is Dr Grace Mugabe, are you going to have your covert meetings? It is impossible, those plans are in disarray)," Muchinguri said.
Describing Grace as a transparent and no-nonsense leader, Muchinguri said with the First Lady in the saddle of the Women's League, things were going to turn for the better, not only for women, but also for the youths.
"She fears God. She knows that there is nothing we can do without the guidance of God. There are some who wear (church) uniforms when they are gossipers. There are some who wear uniforms when they are bad and do things that drive people away from Zanu PF. Rudo rwakazara muna Amai. Munhu anokwanisa kuyananisa (She is full of love and she can heal rifts)," she said.
Dressed in a flowing Zanu PF dress adorned with the face of her husband, Grace started her address by publicly embracing Shadreck Mashayamombe, the Harare South legislator who was recently accused by rivals of attempting to stampede her out of Harare.
She also led Midzi and his rival youth chair Godwin Gomwe into a peace pact, which she claimed marked the end of factionalism not only in Harare but across the country.
"I have a duty to unite people. What causes factionalism is that there are some people who think they are cleverer than our current leadership. Let us not be used in factionalism because we are poor. Factionalism starts at the top and we are going to stand by President Mugabe," the First Lady said.
With her conduct as the First Lady often bitterly criticised across the political divide, Grace told her faithfuls yesterday that she had developed a thick skin to deal with this.
Grace's rally was attended by party heavyweights such as Saviour Kasukuwere, Jonathan Moyo, Tendai Savanhu, Olivia Muchena, Eunice Sandi Moyo, Stembiso Nyoni and Temba Mliswa.