Grace Mugabe Attacks on Mnangagwa Trigger Fresh Crisis

Now Daily Analysis

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The spirited attempts by president Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace Mugabe to have vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa removed from office through a palace coup have failed to produce the desired results. This has led to intractable conflict within the ruling party. The problem with this is that the Zimbabwean nation state is so intertwined with Zanu PF and the Mugabe dynasty that any problems affecting the party, or even the dictator’s bedroom issues, will create shock waves right across the spectrum of political, business and social life of the nation.

Many would want to compare the present crisis with the one that followed the purge of former vice president Joice Mujuru in 2014. The difference is that while Mujuru was sacrificed and agreed to step down when called upon to do so, Mnangagwa has refused to quit and his supporters within the intelligence and armed services threatened confrontation if he was removed without due process.

Surprisingly, after the recent Zanu PF conference, Mugabe appeared to backtrack from the virulent anti-Mnangagwa rhetoric that he opened the meeting with, and which characterized his wife’s pre-conference rallies. Mugabe claimed everything was in order and those who speculated about efforts to remove Mnangagwa were not well-informed.

“Some even said there would be changes to the leadership. That was a dream, maybe driven by fear, but that is all gone. We are now working together, the leadership smiling and committed to the resolutions of the party,” Mugabe said.

He added that there would be no immediate leadership change, in an apparent effort to pacify his deputy’s disgruntled supporters: “…not until 2019. We cannot change the team if it has been working well mid-stream after congress.”

This pacific narrative goes the aggressive and combative attitude displayed by Grace Mugabe and her poodles in G40 such as Saviour Kasukuwere, Patrick Zhuwao and Sarah Mahoka.

And Mnangagwa’s so-called Team Lacoste faction is not taking matters lightly. Insiders believe Mugabe has another plan to get rid of his Number Two. Mugabe himself hinted at this when he charged Mnangagwa with corruption at the Zanu PF conference. He said pointedly that “someone will go to jail” if he ever finds the evidence to prove reports that the vice president and his backers are taking kick-backs from Chinese investors.

In a surprise move meant to further humiliate Mnangagwa, Mugabe appointed the novice politician and second vice president Phelekezela Mphoko to act as president for a whole month while he holidays in Singapore. There is no logic for this, just as there was no sensible reason for appointing the unknown Mphoko, who has no political clout, vice president in the first place. Mphoko might be easier for Grace Mugabe to control because he knows nothing. But can he control the chaos that Mugabe leaves behind whenever he goes on vacation, taking much of the state treasury with him? Mphoko’s disastrous handling of civil servants salaries is ample proof that he is not up to scratch.

The clever demand by the Mnangagwa team that the deputy secretary for women’s league, Eunice Sandi-Moyo should fill the women’s quota in the so-called presidium, instead of Grace Mugabe, caught her G 40 faction flatfooted. It also proved that in terms of political strategy and experience, Mnangagwa is way ahead, a fact acknowledged by Mrs Mugabe herself.

The emerging scenario is one of Mnangagwa trying to one-up his leader at every turn. Sabotage of key government programmes can be a useful weapon for the vice president, who is already accused of allowing Mugabe to read an old speech in parliament so that people would see his incompetence. This is a dangerous situation, which many great politicians have not survived. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are a good example. So are John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, to those who believe in conspiracy theories.

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