Zanu PF Women’s League boss First Lady Grace Mugabe has reportedly crossed swords with her predecessor and Higher Education minister Oppah Muchinguri after the latter allegedly accused President Robert Mugabe’s wife of failing to politically recognise her in the ruling party’s pecking order, it has been learnt.
This comes as it also emerged that Muchinguri was locked in a bitter fight with Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Mandi Chimene over control of the province where she viewed herself as “godmother”.
Party insiders told NewsDay recently that Muchinguri was peeved with her appointments in both the party and government at a time she anticipated handsome rewards as party secretary of administration or Vice-President in recognition of her role in elevating the First Lady and exposing ex-Vice President Joice Mujuru’s alleged shenanigans in the run-up to last December’s party congress.
Mujuru was accused of plotting to unseat President Robert Mugabe from power through unconstitutional means, an allegation the former VP has vehemently refuted and challenged Zanu PF to prove it.
Although Muchinguri has been evasive each time she was contacted for comment for the last two weeks, informed sources indicated that the former Women’s League boss was angry after Grace reportedly failed to “thank her” for catapulting her to the top women’s affairs position and the party’s politburo.
Before the Zanu PF congress last year, Grace and Muchinguri traversed the country’s 10 provinces denouncing Mujuru and her perceived allies for allegedly plotting to assassinate Mugabe.
After relinquishing the Women’s League post, Muchinguri was awarded a less powerful position of transport secretary in the politburo.
“The relationship between the two is no longer cordial at all. Muchinguri is accused of backstabbing the First Lady as she felt that she had a hand for her to be given a less influential position,” a Zanu PF politburo member privy to the goings on said.
“It’s a matter of time before the issue bursts, but for anyone to cross the First Lady’s path these days is politically risky. There are others who are trying to pour water on their acrimony because they feel it will be in bad taste considering the work they did together in removing Mujuru and her cabal. The situation at the moment is like an amber traffic light waiting to get red and when that time comes, we anticipate trouble.”
Repeated efforts to get a comment from Muchinguri since last week were fruitless as she was reportedly said to be attending a series of meetings each time NewsDay phoned. She demanded questions and promised to respond, but had not responded by the time of going to print yesterday.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba was also not available for comment on the matter this week.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo on Wednesday refused to comment on the matter saying the party had nothing to do with personal issues between individuals.
“That has nothing to do with the party. If it’s personal, you should speak to her (Muchinguri) because the party has nothing to do with that,” he said.
On Tuesday, Chimene also flatly denied there was a fallout with Muchinguri, but some Zanu PF provincial executive members in Mutare insisted that a lot has happened between the two since Chimene’s appointment.
“Those are lies. Those people who are telling you this are lying. When did those people see us standing together showing that we are not getting along? That is not true,” Chimene denied.
Muchinguri declared herself provincial “godmother” by virtue of her politburo position following the dismissal of former secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa.
“A serious fight has emerged between these two as they try to control Manicaland. They were working together to ensure that Mutasa was fired from the party, but now they are sabotaging each other’s programmes,” a provincial executive, who requested anonymity, told NewsDay.
Informed sources said the source of Muchinguri’s gripe with Chimene was that she wanted to impose herself in Makoni district, which is the biggest district in Manicaland.
Chimene is MP for Makoni South while Muchinguri, who hails from Mutasa district, is a Proportional Representation MP. It is also alleged that Chimene turned down Muchinguri’s request for another farm.
The Provincial Affairs minister refused on the grounds that government policy was one-person-one-farm.
“Following the dismissal of the former Manicaland provincial chair Ambassador John Mvundura, Samuel Undenge was appointed as acting,” the provincial member said.
It is understood that recently Muchinguri was supposed to unveil a grader for Makoni Rural District Council, but Chimene pulled the plug and warned civil servants against attending the function. The function was eventually cancelled, and a few days later Chimene unveiled the grader without her rivals.
Recently, the party held a provincial co-ordinating committee meeting on Sunday and Chimene did not attend for unknown reasons where Muchinguri took a swipe on her.
However, other key provincial members fighting in Muchinguri’s corner have accused Chimene of overstepping her mandate, saying that she should not confuse her role as minister.