First Lady Grace Mugabe turns 50 on Thursday and Zanu PF has already started fund-raising for a massive birthday bash for her.
By Everson Mushava
This comes hardly five months after President Robert Mugabe reportedly blew over $1 million at his 91st birthday party held in Victoria Falls.
The bash would also mark Grace’s first anniversary into politics that saw her meteoric rise in the ranks of Zanu PF.
From a mere First Lady in July last year, Grace is now at the apex of Zanu PF structures after her nomination to lead the Women’s League.
The post catapulted her to the party’s highest decision making organs, the central committee and politburo and her influence in both Zanu PF and government is growing in leaps and bounds.
Gladys Hlatywayo, a political analyst said Grace’s birthday celebrations confirmed the First Lady was the kingmaker in the country.
“We have only known Mugabe’s birthday celebrations, but all of a sudden, Grace is the new focus of the attention. Grace is now the centre,” Hlatywayo said.
Since her grant entry into politics last year, Grace has asserted her authority in Zanu PF and its leadership.
Early this month, she revealed that Vice-Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko took instructions from her on how to run their offices.
Soon after his appointment to the post of VP in December last year, Mnangagwa knelt before Grace and Mugabe as a show of loyalty and gratitude.
Since then, praise-singing of Grace by Zanu PF members has grown to deafening levels and her birthday bash will once more present an opportunity for members of the party to outdo each other in bootlicking her.
The women’s affairs boss, who, was accused by former war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda of staging a “bedroom coup” last year, is now perceived as the heir apparent after engineering the fall of former Vice-President Joice Mujuru.
The bash for Grace comes at a time when Zimbabwe is a distressed country, suffering from massive job losses and ever rising poverty.
Unemployment is hovering above 80% due to Mugabe’s alleged misrule.
The economy is now so sick that Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has been forced to review downwards the country’s projected economic growth rate.
The cash-strapped government is struggling to pay workers and the country has been reduced to a vending economy.
Vast mineral resources have failed to revive the ever-deteriorating economy.
But in the midst of poverty, the aristocracy seems bent on flaunting opulence, observers have said.
Hlatywayo said the country was in debilitating poverty due to Zanu PF’s misguided priorities.
“In a country where people are struggling, national leaders should have fundraised for national projects,” Hlatywayo said. “We have a serious shortage of jobs and the country is faced with a myriad of challenges, but not one in Zanu PF has proposed a national bash to fundraise towards these national problems. Zanu PF has misguided priorities.”
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said the birthday party was much ado about nothing.
“It is insignificant to the majority of the people of Zimbabwe who are wallowing in grinding poverty as a direct result of gross misgovernance and corruption of the regime that is fronted by Grace’s spouse.”
Media and political analyst Rushweat Mukundu said: “The Dr Grace Mugabe birthday bash is a praise and worship event, which in turn creates cults who see themselves as entitled to privilege and leadership.”
He said Grace’s birthday was a private event that should not occupy the national space.
“She is the wife of the President and not the President and attempts to elevate her beyond that are vain attempts to occupy society with trivialities while the economy is on a downward spiral,” Mukundu said.
“Let the birthday be celebrated in closed doors and if there are any goodwill wishes let them be private and not national.”
Political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya said although 50th birthday celebrations were important, national resources should not be used to fund personal events.
“Grace wants to test her political efficacy. Actually, you will see how men with high value personal and corporate status fall over each other to give the biggest gift,” Ngwenya said.
Human rights researcher Dewa Mavhinga said the bash had all the markings of a family dynasty of cultism in national politics. He said it also showed Zanu PF’s desire to propel Grace into national leadership.
“This is the first time the nation is being dragged to celebrate Grace’s birthday,” he said.
“It is entirely up to the family to decide whether or not to throw a bash for Grace on the occasion of her 50th birthday. But they must not involve the public or use state resources.”
Mavhinga added: “No company should be compelled to contribute to this private birthday party. There is no basis within our Constitution or any other law providing for compulsory subscriptions to fund private birthday parties. If there are people soliciting for birthday gifts or funds, then Grace Mugabe should issue a public statement telling them to stop it because it is both illegal and wrong.”