HARARE – The Zanu PF faction rallying behind embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s mooted presidential aspirations is fearing the worst after it was revealed at the weekend that powerful First Lady Grace Mugabe is returning home this week and resuming her high-octane “meet the people” rallies.
With Grace having been in the Far East for the past two months to support her daughter Bona, who gave birth there to a baby boy last month, Team Lacoste — as the Mnangagwa faction is popularly known — has enjoyed some of its best days during this time in the ruling party’s seemingly unstoppable factional and succession wars.
Forthright Zanu PF women’s league secretary for finance, Sarah Mahoka confirmed to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that Grace would resume her countrywide “meet the people” rallies on Friday this week in Bulawayo, as the ruling party’s ugly battle to succeed President Robert Mugabe rages on.
At the same time, reliable government sources also told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that Mugabe had proceeded to fly to Singapore from South Africa — where he had gone to attend the University of Fort Hare’s centenary celebrations on Friday — to pick up his wife, daughter and grandson.
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa
The ecstatic Mahoka said the women’s league could not wait for the return of the first lady, whom she said was coming back at an opportune time for the ruling party.
“We are mobilising resources as the women’s league in preparation for the Bulawayo rally to be addressed by the first lady on the 27th. Women’s league yauya hot zvakare (the women’s league is back in the groove) … and all roads lead to Bulawayo,” she said.
A well-placed Zanu PF source said Grace was “very well-informed” about political developments within the party and the country at large, as she had been following events from the Far East with keen interest.
“Let those with ears hear and understand this, she is coming back very well-informed about everything, including the shenanigans of successionists, and is determined to put a stop to the nonsense,” the source said cryptically, but ominously.
Another senior party official linked to Zanu PF’s ambitious Young Turks known as the Generation 40 (G40) — who are rabidly opposed to Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe — said bluntly yesterday that “the party is over for Team Lacoste”.
“They (Mnangagwa faction) have been running amok in the time … Amai has been away, and despondency was beginning to creep in the ranks of the party. Now that she is coming back with a bang, the party is over for Team Lacoste,” the bigwig said.
A women’s league official aligned to the Mnangagwa camp said although she knew about Grace’s planned Bulawayo rally, she and many others from the faction would not attend it because they knew that the first lady would “target and embarrass us and Ngwena (Mnangagwa)” at the rally.
“Everyone knows that she (Grace) also harbours presidential ambitions despite her claims to the contrary. That woman is hellbent on discrediting the VP (Mnangagwa) who she sees as the biggest hurdle in her path to power.
“Without doubt, she will be attacking us and Ngwena at that rally and that is why some of us will not attend. However, all her attacks will never win her any supporters in the party,” she said.
When Grace addressed her last rally in February in Chiweshe, Mnangagwa’s political career in Zanu PF was hanging in the balance, after she launched yet another thinly-veiled frontal attack on him.
The influential first lady ominously accused Mnangagwa — of among a litany of other deadly charges — deception, faking love for Mugabe, and in fact working feverishly to topple the long-ruling nonagenarian from power.
“Vanoti Mugabe achembera ngaabve, ivo vachiri vadiki here? (Those who say Mugabe is old and therefore must relinquish power are not young themselves),” she said in remarks that senior party officials present at the rally said were directed at 74-year-old Mnangagwa.
“It’s God who is saying Mugabe be there, because He wants him to accomplish certain tasks. That’s why he can manage to do the things he is doing as the president,” she added.
Although the first lady never mentioned any names directly in her address, she said she would do so at her next rallies if the plotters continued in their ways, further insinuating that Mnangagwa was ungrateful for having been given the post that he currently occupied by Mugabe, after the brutal 2014 purging of former Vice President Joice Mujuru.
“Some people … have overstayed their welcome. Vagarisa … asi tichavayanika pachena (we will expose these plotters) at the next rally, watch this space.
“We are not fools. We have seen people, among them youths, wearing T-shirts with Zimbabwean flags labelled Lacoste, and when we asked them they said Lacoste is a perfume. We are not fools.
“Do not take us for fools. They will not take over from Mugabe. I will rather put him in a wheelbarrow to work because we have realised that those we thought were being groomed as leaders are sell-outs. We no longer have confidence in them,” Grace charged.
Speaking earlier at the same rally, Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko also took a dig at Team Lacoste, saying that there was a dangerous misconception being created within the party that the next president should come from the Karanga ethnic group — the biggest Shona sub-group to which Mnangagwa belongs.
“There is nowhere in the Constitution where it says the country was liberated by a Ndebele, Karanga or Zezuru. The Constitution says the country was liberated by Zapu and Zanu. So what we are hearing now, that since Mugabe is Zezuru, the next should be a Karanga is misplaced. It will not succeed,” he said.
The first lady also suggested that Mugabe’s close lieutenants wanted to kill her youngest son Bellarmine Chatunga, adding that the recent attempted bombing at the First Family’s dairy farm in Mazowe was meant to intimidate them to hand over power now to the successionists.
“You are so cruel and you want me to respect you? Do not play with me because the people you tell will report to us. People will pass a vote of no confidence in you and when that happens you start complaining that the rate at which people are being sacked is too much and that it has never happened before in the history of the party.
“Now it pains you because you are now the target. But you were smiling when it happened to others.
“Is that fair to want to kill my son Bellarmine so as to intimidate us into handing over power to you? Can we go that far? You are mad. There is no vacancy at State House. I am still there,” she fumed, adding that “there will only be a vacancy at State House when you die yourself”.
“We know that you treat me as Mugabe’s mistress, posting Sally’s (Mugabe’s late first wife’s) pictures saying she was better, yet we have never talked about your pool of girlfriends and thousands of children,” she added.
Grace also went to town savaging The Herald newspaper and defending Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo’s use of social media in his recent fights with Mnangagwa’s allies.
“I was shocked when I spoke on Wednesday only to hear The Herald report that I attacked Jonathan Moyo. Why should I attack him as if he was talking to himself on Twitter?
“With all his education and intelligence how could he possibly speak to himself? You begin to see who is controlling that paper. What is happening there journalists?” she added in apparent reference to under-fire Information permanent secretary George Charamba, who stands accused of gross abuse of State media to advance Team Lacoste’s factional interests.