PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace, has become a towering figure in Zanu PF.Since her surprise and grand entry into politics last June when she was nominated to take over from Oppah Muchinguri as Women’s League boss, Grace has steadfastly asserted her authority in both Zanu PF and government with so much haste that she has already earned herself the nickname ‘Hurricane Grace’.
Although Mugabe has claimed that he was still in charge, the temptation to think that Grace is now the power behind the 91-year old leader is just irresistible.
The way Grace is being idolised by the party members seems to confirm that she is now the new centre of power outside Mugabe.
DrAmai, as she is affectionately known, is not only the Women’s League boss, but has also assumed the role of kingmaker in the party with most prominent politicians literally kneeling before her in order to get influential party positions from Mugabe.
First, at her Meet the People rallies, she had quite a huge entourage of senior party officials who included Environment minister Saviour Kasukuwere, Information minister Jonathon Moyo, Psychomotor minister Josiah Hungwe, to mention just, but a few, who virtually idolised her.
Considering the purging of the former Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s faction members, anyone who falls out of grace with Grace is certain to lose Mugabe’s favour.
This partly explains why the praise-singing of the First Lady is growing louder each day. First, it was Vice-President and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa who knelt down before Grace and her husband after being appointed to the Presidium.
In January, Mnangagwa described Grace as an ‘atomic bomb’ after she led a spirited campaign against Mujuru in the run-up to the December party congress. Mujuru was accused of corruption and of trying to oust Mugabe.
“We didn’t know that President Mugabe had a strong weapon, stronger than a nuclear bomb,” Mnangagwa said then. “When Dr Mugabe was invited to lead the women’s league she exposed corruption and changed our perceptions.”
That Grace has the power is not in doubt and at the moment, as classical British playwright and poet William Shakespeare would say: “Like a Colossus, she indeed has straddled the whole Zimbabwe” while everyone else has become like “petty men walking under her huge legs and peep about”.
But the biggest question many Zimbabweans would struggle to answer is – if Mugabe is to go first, will Grace’s powers live beyond him or her powers are just like his shadow that will go with him?
Political analyst Charles Mangongera said Grace was not likely to survive longer politically after Mugabe’s demise.
“She has no social base in the party and those who are singing praises of her are only doing so to curry favour with Mugabe for patronage benefits. She is not from the liberation struggle tradition and also lacks the political acumen to survive the cutthroat politics of Zanu PF,” Mangongera said.
He added: “Grace only has symbolic power which she derives from Mugabe. Once Mugabe goes, those who are using her to ingratiate Mugabe will abandon her. They may even go after her and seize all the properties that she is acquiring, to demonstrate to the world that they are now doing things differently.”
Another political analyst Dewa Mavhinga said: “First Lady Grace Mugabe’s so-called political power is highly misunderstood and grossly exaggerated. She has no political constituency to speak of outside of her husband President Mugabe and her political life and influence is intricately tied to that of her husband.
Mavhinga added: “Her political fortunes without Mugabe will depend on the benevolence of Zanu PF shareholders including the political leadership of the security forces. Grace is not a seasoned politician and her party can be too vicious, vultures are waiting in the wings.”
From what Grace said about Mujuru, she also knows that she has the power to prevail over her husband and the party. Everything that she suggested came to pass. First, it was the Mujuru ouster which she chose to describe as “baby-dumping” and then the party’s constitutional amendments that gave her husband powers to select his deputies.
In her first politburo meeting in January, Grace sat close to her husband in a place Mujuru used to sit, asserting her authority in Zanu PF’s most powerful organ.
Mugabe himself, confirmed Grace’s powers and influence in his life at the party’s December Congress.
“It’s my wife who has written this note. She says I am now talking too much. That’s how I am treated even at home and so I must listen,” Mugabe told the delegates after Grace handed him a note.