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Insights into Grace Mugabe’s hostile takeover of ZANU PF and government

11/11/2017 00:00:00
by Tapera Sango
De facto President of Zimbabwe? ... Grace Mugabe

WHEN President Robert Mugabe told the whole country that he had been ordered by his wife Grace to stop his speech and sit down, we all laughed. The nonagenarian duly cut his speech short and even went further and admitted that he was now following orders from his much younger wife.

At the time, most of us thought it was just banter. Again, someone warned the country of an impending bedroom coup and they were unceremoniously thrown out of the ruling party into the political wilderness. Now the hostile takeover of the liberation movement by Grace Mugabe is almost complete. An individual who is not a war veteran is in charge – real is history in the making. ZANU PF youths (not war veterans) most of who were born after the liberation struggle are Grace’s power base.

Although the sacking of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was expected, Zimbabwe held its breath as the axe was finally wielded. Zimbabwe held its breath as it witnessed how borrowed power can wilt without a whimper. There were even whispers of an imminent implosion but nothing has materialised yet.

Although a lot of Zimbabweans celebrated the demise of the man who earned the name Ngwena (crocodile) for his tenacity, both his supporters and enemies feel cheated by Mnangagwa. The manner of his unceremonious departure is not consistent with what the public thought about him.

There is however, a danger that Zimbabweans will get bogged down with Mnangagwa’s demise and not focus on what this means – the subject which this article explores.

Firstly, let’s consider the obvious. President Mugabe, the only ruler Zimbabwe has known since independence is determined to build a Mugabe dynasty in the country. The odds of his former typist wife assuming the presidency at some point are now very low. The so-called ‘bedroom coup’ is now looking more and more real. In fact, one could argue that Grace Mugabe has already been running the country’s affairs for a few years.

President Mugabe’s grip on ZANU PF power in undeniable; however, there are some dynamics that have changed and these dynamics might have a significant bearing on the 2018 elections and beyond.

Firstly, although President Mugabe’s name will be on the 2018 ballot, Zimbabweans will actually be voting for or against Grace Mugabe. When Grace pointed out that she was already ruling Zimbabwe, she was not bluffing. The recent cabinet reshuffle is a significant departure from trademark Robert Mugabe designs. It is not too far-fetched to describe the recent reshuffle as ‘Grace’s reshuffle’.


The Grace Mugabe-led ZANU PF is however, not coming on a silver plate, there are a number of very significant structural changes that might have a huge bearing on the 2018 elections. The most fundamental shift is that Grace’s ZANU PF can no longer claim to be a revolutionary party. What remains of ZANU PF cannot claim ownership of the liberation movement. Grace Mugabe’s ZANU PF has cast liberation war heroes out to sea in order to propel Grace to the throne.

As things stand, most war veterans are drifting around looking for a political home. The emerging separation between Grace Mugabe and the liberation struggle is a blessing for Zimbabweans. For the first time, Zimbabweans can demand freedom without being made to feel guilty about lack of gratitude heroes of the liberation struggle.

However, although not clear to the public eye, there are signs that the ZANU PF women’s league might not be fully behind Grace. Although Grace speaks as the leader of ZANU PF women’s wing, women are not being given prominence in Grace’s rise to power. Rumours have been circulating to the effect that some powerful people in the women’s league are unhappy with Grace. There are also rumours that a purge of some key players (like Oppah Muchinguri) from the women’s league is imminent.

Unconfirmed rumours suggest that members of the armed forces are also very suspicious of Grace. Both Grace and President Mugabe mentioned this suspicion in their recent ‘youth interface’ tours of the country. Traditionally, senior members of the armed forces have declared their loyalty to ZANU PF – loyalty that confirm the bond between the armed and political wings of ZANU PF dating back to the bush war. A breakup in this unholy trinity can only be good for Zimbabwe; the country is desperate for members of the armed forces who swear allegiance to the constitution (rather than to individuals and political parties).

So, if Grace Mugabe does not have the full support of war veterans, the armed forces and even the ZANU PF women’s league, one might wonder where she gets her power from? The power behind a Grace Mugabe presidency is Kudzai Chipanga who leads the youth wing of the party. Grace is totally dependent on Chipanga who now wields so much power in the party.

It would not be crazy to suggest that Chipanga is the 3rd most powerful person in ZANU PF behind Grace and Robert Mugabe. Grace has been generous with his compliments to Chipanga for his loyalty. The young man has been at the top table during the so called ‘youth interface’ rallies and was even given the honour of ‘firing’ Mnangagwa before the president announced the fate of his former protégé.

What does this mean for 2018 elections? Election strategists need to prepare for the youth wing of ZANU PF to be the party’s torch bearers in the 2018 elections. The focus is unlikely to be on the liberation struggle, it can only be about loyalty to the Mugabe ‘royal’ family. Whether this is enough to win the election is another matter. The wooing of Apostolic Faith worshippers by Grace suggests that she knows she needs to widen her fan base.

The dawn of ‘real’ post liberation struggle politics might just be upon us. Grace may have just ordered the war veterans to ‘Stop it’. ZANU PF will never be the same again!

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