Friday, 20 October 2017

GRACE IN POLE POSITION TO BE VP

First Lady Grace Mugabe stands a good chance of becoming one of the country’s vice presidents in the event that Zanu PF succeeds in introducing a quota system in its presidium by amending the party’s constitution at an extraordinary congress set for December.

The Daily News heard this week that Grace, who burst into the political limelight in August 2014 when she was “invited” to lead the powerful Zanu PF women’s league, appears not to have any challengers at the moment for the position, previously occupied by Joice Mujuru before her catastrophic fall in 2014.

What that could mean is that it would be entirely up to President Robert Mugabe to either appoint his wife or elevate another member of the Zanu PF women’s league to the position since he is the sole appointing authority in the ruling party.

Whichever way the wind blows, there is no doubt that the first lady may continue to have enormous influence on account of being the secretary of the league.

Although analysts do not see Mugabe overlooking his wife in making the appointment unless it is for strategic reasons, precedence has shown that one does not necessarily need to head of the Women’s League to earn an appointment in the presidium — comprising the president, his two deputies and the national chairperson.

In 2004, Mujuru shocked all and sundry when she was parachuted into the presidium, taking over from Simon Muzenda, who had passed on the previous year, despite being way down the ranks in the women’s league.

It was to emerge later that Mujuru’s ascendancy ahead of Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri and Thenjiwe Lesabe, who was the secretary of the league, was on account of heavy lobbying from Grace and the closeness that existed at the time between Mugabe and her husband, retired-general Solomon Mujuru.


Grace was to later turn against Mujuru by leading a divisive campaign that resulted in her cathartic fall in 2014 on allegations of conspiring with her allies to topple Mugabe from power using unconstitutional means.

While most analysts are agreed that Grace is the likely winner in all this because of her influence in the party, there are dark horses such as senior party officials Muchinguri-Kashiri and Edna Madzongwe who might spring a surprise.

Muchinguri-Kashiri, one of the longest serving members of the women’s league, has a rich history in politics, having participated in the liberation war. She received her military training in Mozambique and was also passenger in a car crash that killed liberation war icon, Josiah Tongorara, on the eve of independence in December 1979.

Her only disadvantage is that she is seen as aligned to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has fallen out with the first family.

Another dark horse could be Edna Madzongwe, born July 11, 1943. Madzongwe has been president of the Senate since 2005 and is close to both Mugabe and his wife, Grace.
Political analyst Vivid Gwede said Grace might become the beneficiary of a possible elevation of a female to the presidium.

“It is likely that she will take advantage of her position as chairperson of the women’s league. But Lacoste might fight for three VPs as they do not want to be seen to be opposing Grace.

“I think the special congress will be used to legitimise first lady’s rise as a popular decision.”
Gwede opines that Muchinguri and Madzongwe stand a chance if Mugabe decides it would not be proper to be deputised by his wife.

“It is not obvious that Grace will be elevated, especially if her husband feels he can achieve his goal without doing it. Remember this plot of elevating a woman to the VP post is in order to keep Mnangagwa in check and whittle his powers. So Muchinguri-Kashiri and Madzongwe stand a chance in that matrix.”

Social commentator Rejoice Ngwenya said the good thing is that there is nothing in the Zanu PF constitution that says the head of women’s league must take that responsibility.
“I therefore doubt that Grace and her family may want to be so blatant as to entrench their dynastic greed by pushing her into the hot seat.

“Here I am talking about the morality, rationality and common sense of good governance. But does the Mugabe dynasty care about ‘looking good’? No!
“So I can see Mugabe biting the bullet and claiming that ‘the people’ suggested he appoints Grace as VP. ‘After all,’ he will reason, ‘she has as much constitutional right as any other woman to be VP.’”

Political analyst Precious Shumba said the best woman VP for Zanu PF would be Muchinguri-Kashiri, who is sober and understands Zanu PF better than her successor at the helm of the women’s league.

“The problem now faced by Zanu PF is that they have concentrated powers in the hands of one man, and that is Robert Mugabe. The special congress should among other things restore the position of chairperson in Zanu PF, and that all positions, including that of the president, should be contested by Zanu PF supporters in a secret ballot.

“The two VPs are ceremonial, and serve at the pleasure of the president and first secretary. It means that whoever gets into those positions is merely a placeholder with very little executive authority, except for the higher perks and privileges as part of the presidium,” said Shumba.

He added that Muchinguri-Kashiri may actually unite Zanu PF women better than Grace. “She has been with Zanu PF longer, and has more experience in terms of handling people with divergent views.”

Shumba believes Madzongwe does not wield that much support within the Zanu PF structures, but has been elevated because of other factors like regional solidarity, since she hails from the same home province as Mugabe, Mashonaland West.

“Personally, I do not see Madzongwe rising above where she is unless of course she is imposed by Mugabe or other people acting on behalf of the president to have her in that position.

“Politically, she is a senior member of Zanu PF, but she has not really asserted her seniority, neither has she demonstrated her capacity to champion national policy issues.”

As for Muchinguri-Kashiri, Shumba said the minister of Water and Climate tends to be assigned to both the party and government where she articulates her views on issues, like women empowerment, Zanu PF policies, and Madzongwe has been largely in the legislature.

“This should show the different power dynamics in Zanu PF. The deployment of these women in Zanu PF to both government and party has nothing to do much with their capacities or competencies but everything to do with balancing political interests.”
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said the crown belongs to Grace.

“It’s obvious. She is the most ‘powerful’ woman in Zanu today,” he said.
Saungweme believes Muchinguri-Kashiri and Madzongwe’s chances are limited given the patronage system in Zanu PF where the first family comes first.

“These two may have better substance than Grace but are not dirty enough to out the garrulous and vacuous Grace who spews political venom in most crude way targeted at opponents.”

Media practitioner Tabani Moyo believes it’s not going to be two VPs but three.
“It will be (Phelekezela) Mpoko, (Sydney) Sekeramayi and Grace. You are aware that when the women’s league made the proposal, it wanted a third VP. If it fails then it will be two — Sekeramayi and Mpoko. Mnangagwa is done; there is no way out of this one.”

Social commentator Rashweat Mukundu said there is every indication that Grace is well-positioned to take over as VP considering that she is the most senior woman party leader by virtue of her being the woman’s league chair.

“Mugabe and Grace no longer trust Muchinguri-Kashiri who is seen as Lacoste, and Madzongwe stands an outside chance should the president sense that having Grace as VP could be seen as too crude,” said Mukundu.

Journalist Nevanji Madanhire agrees that it will have to be Grace, without a doubt. “She is the women’s league secretary so it would be a sacrilege to promote another woman ahead of her.

“The whole special congress is aimed at lifting her into the presidium. Look at how subdued the whole women’s league has become after Grace entered the arena. It would be amazing if any other woman rises to upstage her.” daily news

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