By Fungi Kwaramba
HARARE – After fronting the brutal purging of former Vice President Joice Mujuru and other stalwarts in the warring Zanu PF last year, and swiftly moving to become arguably the single most powerful person in the country, the political tide and Mujuru ghost appears to be turning against controversial First Lady Grace Mugabe.
Well-placed Zanu PF sources told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that Grace’s “desperate attempts” over the past few days to placate Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his counterpart Phelekezela Mphoko, as well as her move to play down the ruling party’s worsening factional and succession wars, showed that she was “feeling the heat” with Mujuru ghost haunting her .
“The problem is that Amai (Grace) is out of her depth in politics, and never appeared to have a cogent plan from day one, other than her public agenda to destroy Mai Mujuru and protect her business interests. Now she is running out of oxygen, hence all the desperation to reverse gear on many fronts.
“It has not helped that ambitious and destructive elements within the Gang of Four and the broader G40 (Zanu PF’s ambitious Young Turks) group moved very quickly earlier on to abuse her and take advantage of her evident political naivety. It’s a disaster,” a long-serving ruling party official said.
Another official scathingly described Grace as “the epicentre of anarchy” and “the grand mistress of gossip and confusion” in the party, in the wake of her continuing flip-flopping over the existence, causes and alleged instigators of the ruling party’s deepening infighting a ghost of the 70s.
“For too long, many pretended that all was well and hoped that Amai (Grace) would ultimately come to her senses. But that is clearly a pipe dream and things are getting worse. She is the epicentre of the anarchy and also the grand mistress of gossip and confusion in the party. Clearly, she will not rest until the party is completely destroyed.
“I honestly sympathise with the president who has the difficult and unenviable task of always having to clean up her vomit, as if managing the raging factionalism is not a big job enough already. Honestly, when will this chaos stop and who will stop it,” he said.
But observers say it is not only Grace who is reeling under political pressure, pointing to Mugabe’s recent utterances in which he has insulted both the dead and the living as also betraying the fact that he was battling to keep his party’s ugly infighting under control.
As a result, liberation struggle stalwarts yesterday accused the nonagenarian of being trapped in “a time warp” — with his continuous attacks on the late struggle icon, General Solomon Mujuru, particularly displeasing many war veterans.
Even though it is four years since the late General Mujuru’s remains were discovered after a mysterious fire at his Beatrice farm, his name remains one of the most talked about within Zanu PF’s corridors of power — with his widow, former Vice President Joice Mujuru, continuing to be a subject of much vilification and derision among senior officials of the party.
With the ghost on his heels, on Friday, Mugabe once again attacked the late general, accusing the man credited with catapulting the nonagenarian to the leadership of Zanu PF of having allegedly worked in cahoots with Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD) leader Simba Makoni and respected academic, Ibbo Mandaza, to remove him from power.
Addressing the Women’s League in Harare, Mugabe claimed that the trio of General Mujuru, Mandaza and Makoni had hatched a plan to have Zanu PF legislators winning elections and him losing the 2008 presidential elections.
But speaking in separate interviews with the Daily News on Sunday yesterday, both Mandaza and Makoni dismissed Mugabe’s assertions, saying they were baseless. Mandaza, who has intimate knowledge of the ruling party and its senior officials, said Mugabe’s fixation with the 2008 election defeat was shocking.
“I don’t know what he is talking about. He is being haunted by the Mujuru ghost.The election was a contest in which Makoni was a presidential candidate and obviously, the intention was to beat Mugabe, and he (Mugabe) lost the first round.
“He thinks it’s heresy for him to be contested when it is clear that the majority in his party and the country know that he has overstayed and should go,” he said.
Asked why Mugabe now had the nerve to question General Mujuru’s track record, Mandaza said the fallen war hero was “always the only one” who had the guts to challenge the nonagenarian before he died.
“This betrays that they (Zanu PF) always believed that he was a thorn in the flesh, but he was a hero and that cannot be debated. Mujuru’s only problem was that he demanded that Mugabe should go, and to Mugabe that is a crime,” Mandaza added.
On his part, Makoni chose to say, “vanongorotomoka vadhara vacho (the old man is notorious for speaking without thinking)”.
Ironically and despite now bad-mouthing him to no end, Mugabe and Zanu PF unanimously declared him a national hero when he died in 2011, with his massive funeral attracting the biggest crowd ever witnessed at the National Heroes Acre. At the time, nothing negative was said about him and his alleged misdemeanours.
Outspoken war veteran, Margaret Dongo, waded into the matter yesterday, telling the Daily News on Sunday that Mugabe was “well-known” for being scared of the late Mujuru before his death and even his ghost, whose war nom de guerre was Rex Nhongo.
“There is no reason to continue talking about munhu akafa kare, (a person who passed away a long time ago). Mujuru ghost is haunting him. Mugabe feared Mujuru because he knows that he is president because of that man,” she said.
Zanu PF veterans have repeatedly pointed out that it was on Mujuru’s insistence that Mugabe became the party’s leader in 1977, after much resistance from many guerrillas to have the former schoolteacher installed as their president as they did not trust him.
They also say General Mujuru continued to exert his influence on Mugabe and Zanu PF after independence, to the extent that it is widely believed that it was beacause of him that the nonagenarian frustrated the ascendancy of VP Emmerson Mnangagwa to the post in 2004, nudging him to pick his wife Joice.
“Mugabe is not comfortable with the name Mujuru.This ghost haunts him. Now he is talking about the wife, an innocent cadre who was victimised. Mujuru wanted him (Mugabe) gone and he was fed up because these people had failed him and this has nothing to do with ideology.
“At any rate, where is the so-called socialism ideology when there is rampant corruption and suffering in the country? These people are stealing, and why should he blame Mujuru for his dismal performance with regard to running the economy,” Dongo said.
The spokesperson of the “original” Zanu PF (People First), Rugare Gumbo, said it was “tragic that a whole president is trapped in the past”. “It is unfortunate and tragic that the president is always talking about the past including ghost s, although this is expected because when someone gets old, he only thinks about the past. But Zimbabweans are saying let’s focus on reviving the dying economy,” he said.
“As People First, we don’t want one centre of power, we want team work. We also believe in office terms. It now seems as though Mugabe nemudzimai wake ndivo vavakutonga chete (Mugabe and his wife are governing the country on their own). Is this democracy?
“However, they are wasting their time because Grace will not win anything , Mujuru ghost will continue to haunt her(presumably after Mugabe’s time in office),” Gumbo said-Dailynews