TWO months ago President Robert Mugabe described his wife Grace’s short stint in politics as “fireworks” and he was not far from the truth.
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Grace, the leader of the Zanu PF women’s league, entered politics in 2014, with her first action being the kicking out of the highest ranking woman in the party, then vice-president Joice Mujuru.
Hundreds of other party officials also fell in the process as collateral damage. They were accused of a slew of crimes that included an alleged plot to stage a coup against Mugabe.
In a matter of months, Zanu PF had executed its biggest purge since the ruling party’s formation in 1963. Since then, several officials have been dismissed from the party for crossing the former typist’s path.
But it was last week that a loud reminder was sent to Zanu PF factions that there is a new sheriff in town.
In one fell swoop, Grace ditched her two most ardent supporters and allies — Eunice Sandi Moyo and Sarah Mahoka — over allegations of corruption and factionalism.
The first lady used the same script that she employed against Mujuru — stage-managed demonstrations throughout the country followed by a so-called petition.
Political analysts describe her strategy as “shock and knock-out”.
The strategy, according to Harare-based political analyst, Alexander Rusero, begins with Grace’s foot soldiers accusing her perceived opponents of insubordination, fanning factionalism and the cruel one — plotting to overthrow an elected leadership before throwing the spear.
“The strategy works in that while the enemy, whether real or imagined, is still in shock about the allegation being levelled against him or her, the axe falls immediately. And that is what Grace Mugabe has mastered,” Rusero said.
In the build-up to Mujuru’s ouster, the first lady — even before she had been confirmed as the new women’s league boss — led a campaign against the then VP, accusing her of plotting to unseat Mugabe through sorcery and the use of hired assassins.
Rusero said what was evident in Grace’s formative political years was intolerance to opposing views.
“She has introduced a new political culture in Zanu PF of intolerance to opposing voices and has mastered the art of eliminating any potential threat,” Rusero said.
“This works in politics because she managed to get Mujuru out and then [Didymus] Mutasa, [Rugare] Gumbo and many more.
“She is doing so to ensure there is no opposing opinion within the party.
“This culture is not known, it has never been used even by the husband but it seems it has worked well for her.”
During the anti-Mujuru blitz, Godfrey Tsenengamu — former Zanu PF youth chairperson for Mashonaland Central — was among the influential youths who mobilised demonstrations on behalf of the first lady.
Today, Tsenengamu is in the political wilderness after being booted out Mujuru-style. He has no kind words for the first lady.
“It cannot be true that everyone else in the party is wrong and she is the only one who is correct,” he said.
“Why didn’t it happen in the days of Mama Sally [Mugabe’s late first wife]?
“She [Grace] has set a record for herself in the history of the party, a record which no one matches. A record of destruction.”
Tsenengamu said Grace had destroyed the core values and backbone of Zanu PF by instigating—directly and indirectly — the ouster of war veterans.
“In the last three years she has done what America and Britain have been failing to do for decades, that is the destruction of Zanu PF with ease,” he added.
The first lady seems to also believe in the adage that there are no permanent friends in politics, only interests, as Sandi Moyo and Mahoka would testify.
Several people that played a vital role in her meteoric rise are now out in the cold. Two women are said to have died bitter because of the treatment they got from the first lady.
Espinah Nhari, a former women’s league secretary for administration, died in a horrific accident involving three cars last year, shortly after her suspension for chanting the slogan “Down with G40”.
“She was a troubled person in her final days,” said Zanu PF Midlands provincial chairperson Joram Gumbo at the time.
“She was a nurse and had to leave that job to work fulltime as secretary for administration in the women’s league.
“But unfortunately, as you know she was voted out from the post due to allegations she said are false,” Gumbo said then.
Mashonaland West Zanu PF proportional representation MP, Joan Tsogorani succumbed to hypertension last year after being rebuked by the first lady at a party gathering in Kadoma.
Tsogorani was accused of fanning factionalism.
Tsenengamu described Grace as a selfish politician who did not care about the future of Zanu PF but was more concerned about her own well-being.
“From my experience and what’s going on now, she is unreliable, self-centred, untrustworthy, over-ambitious and power hungry. She cares about no one but her ambition,” he said.
Tsenengamu had a warning to those cheering Grace on as she destroyed her former allies Mahoka and Sandi Moyo.
“My advice goes to those availing themselves to her now for the ongoing demolition jobs in the party, that your sweetness to her will not last a day before you are dumped. Learn from history,” he said.
Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association spokesperson Douglas Mahiya, another victim of Grace’s purges, said the first lady and her allies had “destroyed what held Zanu PF together”.
“This is a start of the end of the revolution. All what we fought for has been thrown out,” he said.
“The tolerance, understanding of each other has been thrown out of the window.
“It’s now chaos and individualistic politics, thanks to lack of ideology by those who have hijacked the regime.”
Mahiya said Grace had changed the way Zanu PF did things and that could spell disaster for the ruling party.
“During the revolutionary struggle, we were taught that when people lose ideology, they resort to theft, and this is what has been happening in Zanu PF,” he said.
“The moment the ethos of the struggle and ideals thereof are reverted to, all the contradictions and misunderstanding based on individual desires will fall away.”
He said Zanu PF would not survive for long if Grace continued calling the shots.
“If truth be told, the party has not recruited anyone but caused the departure of many from the party since she came in,” he said.
“I yearn for a day when the ideals of recruitment will be instilled in Zanu PF instead of the current drive of expelling people willy-nilly.
“At this alarming rate of purges and expulsions we are seeing in Zanu PF, no one is safe.
“Even Grace is not safe because it is a matter of time before she is dealt with accordingly.
“As they say, those who live by the sword will die by the same, it can’t be different in politics.”
He added: “She needs mature politics of engagement, cohesion and inclusivity rather than division for her own good and the good of her party which currently is in tatters.”
University of Zimbabwe political science professor, Eldred Masunungure, said Sandi Moyo and Mahoka’s predicament proved that politics was indeed a dirty game.
“Their impending expulsion proves that politics is a dirty game,” he said.
“These women were used so effectively, but once they had exhausted their usefulness, they were suddenly a liability and no longer an asset, so they had to go.
“They are victims of their own making, they created Grace and she has made them taste a concoction they brewed in her.”
Sandi Moyo and Mahoka’s future in Zanu PF is likely to be decided at a politburo meeting to be held on Wednesday.
According to insiders, Sandi Moyo is paying the price for showing too much ambition after she expressed interest in the vice president’s post once Zanu PF implements a resolution to reserve one of the two posts for women.
Grace is said to be interested in the vice presidency despite repeated denials.