THREE years after joining active politics, first lady Grace Mugabe has brought down two vice-presidents and hundreds of experienced Zanu PF politicians that she viewed as a stumbling block to her ambition for higher office.
Former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, fired in dramatic fashion last week, did not even last a single five-year time after he succeeded Joice Mujuru in 2014.
Mnangagwa, lionised in some circles as a fearless fighter and strategist par-excellence, was floored the same way as his predecessor — through a series of rallies where their dirty linen was washed in public before demands for their ouster were made.
On both occasions, hundreds of senior Zanu PF officials, including Cabinet ministers that are perceived to be against Grace’s ascendancy, became collateral damage.
Unlike in 2014 when she did the donkey work only to allow Mnangagwa to benefit from Mujuru’s slaying, the president’s 52-year-old shopaholic wife now wants the biggest prize.
After Mnangagwa’s unceremonious exit, Zanu PF structures were railroaded to endorse her as the second VP.
President Robert Mugabe is now largely expected to appoint her into the presidium and speculation is rife that the soon-to-be 94-year-old ruler will pick three deputies in order to manage his succession.
Defence minister Sidney Sekeramayi, who is believed to be the anointed successor, is likely to be made the third vice-president, joining Grace and Phelekezela Mphoko.
However, it is Grace’s growing influence that has left analysts predicting that she might be tempted to go for the highest position in the land despite her aged husband’s apparent reluctance.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said there was nothing that could stop Grace from gunning for the presidency when her husband eventually exits the scene.
“My view is that currently, there is nothing that can stop her from going far; it seems the road has been cleared and what is left is for the confirmations come December,” he said.
“Probably, what is left is to answer the question of: will she be given the state power?
“From a government experience point of view, she might be appointed and be an understudy to someone so that she learns state craft and then go higher later.”
In July as she turned the heat on Mnangagwa, Grace publicly challenged her husband to name a successor.
Her comments came after Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo — who is believed to be the brains behind the Grace-leaning G40 faction — threw Sekeremayi’s name into the succession ring in June.
Masunungure said Mugabe’s idea might be to use Sekeremayi as a stop-gap measure while preparing his wife for state power.
“This, in my view, comes in the issue of Sekeremanyi being the current possible successor while she learns the ropes,” he said.
“From a government point of view, she does not have much experience in terms of governance besides being a secretary in the early 90s and she might need to learn a lot from the experienced ones.
“On the question of acceptability, there seems to be a challenge, the old guard within the party seem to be resisting her and I don’t think the middle generation accepts her.”
A day after Mnangagwa was shown the door for “disloyalty and deceit”, Grace declared she was ready to assist her husband to “change” Zimbabwe’s fortunes.
Harare-based political analyst Alexander Rusero said Grace would get whatever she wanted as long as Mugabe was still alive.
“There is nothing that can stop her as long as her husband, the president, is alive,” he said.
“She is there because of the president and no one can stop her from achieving her dreams so long Mugabe is there.
“Currently, Mugabe is the only power broker in Zanu PF and whoever is with him, is destined for any positions.”
However, Rusero said Grace must be clever to balance competing interests in Zanu PF, especially the G40 side after the faction obliterated Mnangagwa’s Team Lacoste with Mugabe’s help.
“The first challenge of any battle won is to deal with the expectations of those who participated in that battle,” he said.
“Like any Zimbabwean, they have an expectation to be rewarded with something for a job well done and this is no exception.
“This is the principle of every war, victors expect to share spoils.
“We are likely to see contestation on that because some will feel less rewarded and in the process ignite friction.
“The only worry to talk about for Grace is how to deal with sharing of the spoils.
“All the participants, just like everyone else, would want to be given a position of advantage and influence both in government and in Zanu PF.”
Alois Masepe, another Harare-based political analyst, said Mugabe remained the only centre of power in Zimbabwe and this made it easy for Grace to take any position she wanted.
“Zanu PF has one centre of power and it is that system which is elevating Grace; the sky is the limit for her because of this one centre of power,” he said.
“She is part and parcel of the one centre of power and her rise depends on that centre.
‘The only stumbling block for her to go higher is the president and herself.
“On the issue of whether she will be accepted, within Zanu PF she seems to have been accepted, hence there are calls for her to go higher.
“Outside Zanu PF, we can only wait for free, fair and credible polls to determine if she is accepted. But internally, no one can object to what the appointing authority wants.”
Mugabe has on more than one occasion this year said he will not hand over power to his wife, but the way he has been cutting ties with long-time allies that seem to not like his wife tells a different story.
The Zanu PF leader has already cut ties with former liberation war fighters that wanted him to hand over power to Mnangagwa instead of his wife.
He has also severed relations with some Zanu PF stalwarts such as Rugare Gumbo and Didymus Mutasa over the fluid succession issue.