FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe’s scheduled visit to Manicaland next week has stoked fierce fights, which have seen rival Zanu PF provincial factions haggling over the venue for her meeting, it has been reported.
Newsday newspaper reported that Grace is scheduled to travel to Manicaland on October 8, where she will address a rally meant to mend the widening rift between rival Zanu PF factions led by Provincial Affairs minister Mandi Chimene and Water minister Oppah Muchinguri.
Initially, the rally was pencilled for Cashel Valley in Chimanimani East, where Energy minister and acting provincial chairperson Samuel Undenge is MP.
However, on Monday Zanu PF provincial Women’s League members led by Happines Nyakuedzwa reportedly met in Mutare and proposed to move the venue to Sakubva Stadium in Mutare, arguing that it was more central.
So strong are the campaigns on both sides to the extent that the squabbles are now threatening to disrupt Grace’s first visit to Manicaland since her appointment as Zanu PF Women’s League secretary last year.
“Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s allies, including Oppah Muchinguri, provincial women’s chairperson Happiness Nyakuedzwa and Mike Madiro, among others, want to hijack the programme and change the venue to Sakubva Stadium,” a provincial member, who refused to be named said.
“However, Sakubva is the same venue where rowdy youths openly fought and jeered at First Lady and we know that some people will come there to try and further embarrass her.
“People like Letina [Undenge’s wife], Chimene, deputy secretary for youth Kudzi Chipanga and youth leader Mubuso Chinguno are pushing for Cashel because that is the area where self-help programmes will be unveiled and that makes sense to us because the programme is in line with ZimAsset.”
Letina, who could not be contacted for comment yesterday, is believed to be Grace’s ally and reportedly enjoys a lot of support from other senior officials including Chimene.
Nyakuedzwa yesterday confirmed that they had met to prepare for Grace’s impending visit, but refuted claims she was lobbying for a change of venue.
“We are yet to be advised on the venue. I am telling you there is no antagonism about the venue at all,” she said.
“This is her [Grace] first visit to Manicaland since her ascendency to that position and as a mother she is coming to see her family.
“We held a meeting yesterday [Monday] for preparations, but I didn’t say anything on those allegations. Those were not my words.”
Since her entry into mainstream politics last year, Grace has caused tremors in Zanu PF circles following her crusade against a faction perceived to be pushing for her husband President Robert Mugabe’s ouster.
She ruffled feathers at a rally in Kadoma in July this year when she publicly denounced some top provincial party officials, accusing them of fanning factionalism, leaving the party’s Mashonaland provincial structures more divided.
The latest clashes in Manicaland come at a time when the majority of provincial youth chairpersons countrywide and other top national youth executives have allegedly received threatening text messages from suspected party members accusing them of treading on “wrong grounds”.
A new wave of intimidation based on threatening text messages has emerged in Zanu PF, with Cabinet ministers and some politburo members also receiving similar threats recently.
On the other hand, provincial youth leaders who received the threatening messages said they would not panic because they “smelled cowardice” from the originators of the texts.
“Just a reminder, vakuru dzokai kunaAmai. Kwamuri uko hakuna upenyu. 1 centre of power panaAmai. Your days are numbered. Tirikukuzivai. #Team Grace (G40), (Just a reminder, return to Grace. There’s no life where you are, one centre of power behind Grace. We are notifying you).”
“I received the message on Saturday from an anonymous number. However, I will not panic or make a police report because whoever sent that message is a coward,” Washington Nkomo from Matabeleland South province said.
“He or she should have come and face me. I am not the kind of person who will be moved by such messages.”
Secretary for youth affairs in the Zanu PF politburo Pupurai Togarepi declined to comment, saying he was also a target of such messages and the party spokesperson was best placed to comment.
“That area needs the party spokesperson,” he pontificated.
“I am also a complainant and I have received many messages of that nature. Our party procedures require that the spokesperson deal with your enquiries.”
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo’s phone rang unanswered.
Grace is said to be the face of the ambitious G40 group, which is reported to be against Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe.