SUSPECTED state security agents have taken over the organisation of First Lady, Grace Mugabe’s rally in Manicaland on Thursday, fearing her trip could be sabotaged due to serious Zanu PF internal fights in the province, The Standard has learnt.
Sources in the divided Zanu PF Manicaland provincial executive said senior officials opposed to Grace’s preferred venue — Cashel Valley in Chimanimani — have now taken a back seat in the preparations, forcing state security agents to act.
A provincial executive member said intelligence officials were now taking the lead in mobilising people to attend Grace’s rally to avoid an embarrassing low turnout after efforts to switch the venue to the central and neutral, Sakubva stadium were thwarted.
“In areas where there are pockets of resistance, there will be flyers with the message about the First Lady’s visit. In those areas CIOs will be there to monitor the situation and identify saboteurs,” said the official.
Upon his return from the United Nations General Assembly last week, President Robert Mugabe put to rest the war over Grace’s rally venue, pitting one faction loyal to her and another reportedly led by loyalists of Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Grace is now expected to address thousands of Zanu PF supporters in Cashel Valley, Chimanimani East constituency, on Thursday. It is acting provincial party chairman Samuel Undenge’s constituency.
“We have heard that because the President stood by Undenge on both the issue of the venue and that of power cuts which was used by the rival group to undermine him, they are now planning to sabotage the visit by the First Lady,” said another provincial member who requested anonymity.
“The issue is, there are certain MPs and provincial members who are doing absolutely nothing to mobilise people to come.”
The provincial executive member claimed youths were being mobilised to embarrass rivals at the rally.
“They are actually hiring youths to come and boo or jeer certain individuals,” he said.
“Efforts are underway now to counter their plans, but that is likely to tarnish the image of the province, the chair and his wife Letina, who is also a national member of the Women’ League. Letina is playing a crucial role in the revival of horticulture farming in Chimanimani.”
According to sources, the faction supporting Grace has drawn a list of officials who were allegedly targeting Undenge and his supporters so that the First Lady can publicly rebuke them.
The list includes ministers Oppah Muchinguri and Monica Mutsvangwa, central committee members Mike Madiro, Joshua Sacco, Luke Masamvu, who is also MP for Mutasa North and suspended MP for Chimanimani West Munacho Mutezo, Oliver Maponga and provincial women boss Happiness Nyakuedzwa, among others.
A potentially explosive provincial coordination committee is to be held today and warring parties are expected to square off.
According to sources, Grace’s visit at the invitation of Undenge’s family has stroked fires amid reports that many senior officials had their invitations turned down. These include provincial minister, Mandi Chimene, who allegedly wanted the First Lady to visit Matumba shrine in Old Mutare where many fallen liberation fighters were reburied last year.
However, Zanu PF women’s league spokesperson and Chimanimani senator, Monica Mutsvangwa said allegations of attempts to sabotage the First Lady’s visit, were coming from enemies of the ruling party.
She said those reported to be against the First Lady’s visit were seasoned officials of Zanu PF and could not stoop so low as to plan any form of sabotage.
“The women’s league is very excited about the visit by the First Lady and we are actually busy mobilising people. As women’s league, we cannot dissuade people from mobilising supporters to come [to the rally],” Mutsvangwa said.