Ailing Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe is expected to unofficially hand over the reins of power to his wife Grace Mugabe at a conference of his ruling Zanu PF party in mid-December, where she will replace Emmerson Mnangagwa as vice president, officials confirmed.
Mugabe is expected to announce the dismissal of Mnangagwa as vice president and his replacement by Grace Mugabe. He will tell his closest advisers privately to allow Grace Mugabe to take over the helm of the party in the event that his health continues deteriorating or fails totally, sources said.
Grace Mugabe has already been appointed to the powerful politburo, which is seen as a stepping stone to the party presidency and national leadership. Although the dethronement of Mnangagwa was to remain a secret until the conference, the motor-mouth Grace Mugabe has already published it at her countrywide rallies, in breach of party protocol.
“Mugabe is now too old to continue running the party and country. Party members want the issue of succession to be discussed at the conference. Despite the denials in the media, Mugabe has already decided that his wife Grace Mugabe should succeed him and hold power until his son is old enough to take over,” said a senior party official.
Mugabe has previously announced that the only person he considers fit to run Zimbabwe is his son Bellarmine Chatunga, who is only 20. He later retracted the statement claiming he had said it in jest and lambasted Chatunga for being addicted to pornography, women and drugs.
Grace Mugabe announced in 2014 that she wanted to be president.
“Who has more right than me to be president of this country?” Grace Mugabe said then. Mugabe later retracted the statement on her behalf after howls of protest from senior party members. He said his wife had no presidential ambitions, although she was now a member of the ruling party’s supreme Soviet-style politburo, considered a stepping stone to higher office.
The party conference to be held in Victoria Falls is expected to be a coup against vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who, according to the party constitution, is next in line to succeed the 92 year-old despot who has run the country like ‘Animal Farm’ for 35 years.
Grace Mugabe has been on a country-wide tour backed by the army, denouncing Mnangagwa as a ‘thief’ and coup plotter against her husband, charges she used to dislodge former vice president Joice Mujuru, who was expelled from the party leadership in December 2014.
Grace Mugabe however faces massive resistance from liberation war veterans and military officials who have declared their support for the ousted Mujuru and her proposed new political party People First.
“War vets have rejected Grace Mugabe and endorsed Mrs Mujuru,” said a retired army officer. “Some junior army officers have been coming to threaten us but we are fully behind Mujuru. Mugabe wants to impose his wife but we will not accept that.”
Senior liberation war veterans have rejected overtures made by Grace Mugabe, saying she had not fought in the war and was allegedly corrupt.
The veterans said they had thrown their weight behind underdog Mujuru in the battle to succeed the ailing president Mugabe because she understood their plight.
The move has set the stage for violent confrontation between the two heavily armed sides.
The war veterans accuse Mugabe of abandoning them for 35 years, only pretending to care during election times and even then, only recognizing senior army officers, who are allowed a life of luxury by looting state resources. War veterans minister Christopher Mutsvangwa admitted that the former combatants had been ‘forgotten’ for 35 years. Mutsvangwa said that many of the veterans had developed psychological problems because of the trauma they went through during the war and failure to get treatment after independence.
The ‘comrades’, as they preferred to be called during the war, denounced the ambitious Grace Mugabe, accusing her of being power-hungry and upsetting the established order as she had no liberation war credentials.
“Mugabe himself never fired a gun in anger during the war. His wife Grace never fought in the war but Mugabe is giving her all the powers and promoting people who contributed nothing to the liberation of this country,” said a war veteran.
Other war veterans rejected Grace Mugabe as a potential successor to Mugabe over the way she has treated party founders and veterans in her campaign. In particular, they took issue with a statement Grace Mugabe made, to the effect that having fought in the war was not a qualification for a leadership position.
“The liberation war taught us how to govern, how to care for people and be compassionate to the masses. The reason why we have so much corruption in government today is that the revolution has been hijacked by gold-diggers like Grace Mugabe,” said a war veteran.
Grace Mugabe is campaigning furiously to win the hearts and minds of Zanu PF members after helping her husband boot out former vice president Mujuru, who was touted as the front-runner to land the presidency.
Mujuru is reported to be the leader of a Zanu PF breakaway movement, People First but has avoided making public statements attacking the ruthless Mugabe since her expulsion. The ‘comrades’ said they were ready to back People First and Mujuru.
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