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The Paradox of a President Grace Mugabe

25 Mar 2017 at 09:21hrs | Views
As Zimbabwe's Opposition continues to be in disarray and President Mugabe is gradually forced out of power by old age, it looks more likely that Mugabe's successor will emerge from the Zanu PF succession matrix. Although Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is the front runner in the race to succeed President Mugabe, it is only prudent and wise to take an in-depth look at his closest rival, Grace Mugabe. Grace is the head of Zanu PF Women's league and the leader of a Zanu PF faction popularly known as G40 which is opposed to Mnangagwa's Lacoste faction.

Zimbabwe's influential First Lady, Grace Mugabe has in the past claimed that every Zimbabwean has a right to be president if they are interested and that includes herself so people must not criticise her if she decides to run for the presidency. In widely-reported comments at a rally outside Harare, Grace said: "They say I want to be president. Why not? Am I not a Zimbabwean?" This statement set the cat among the pigeons and was greeted with shock by both supporters and critics, as both camps suspected that this meant that the first lady had presidential ambitions. Grace Mugabe née Marufu is 51 years old and was born on 23 July 1965.She is the wife of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and the First Lady of Zimbabwe from her marriage to the leader in 1996.Grace was born in Benoni in South Africa, and her family lived in South Africa until 1970. She was previously married to Stanley Goreraza, an air force pilot, who was the defence attaché at the Zimbabwe embassy in China.

As secretary to the president, she became his mistress while still married to Goreraza and together they had three children, Bona, named after Mugabe's mother, Robert Peter, Jr and Chatunga Bellarmine. The couple were married in an extravagant Catholic Mass, titled the "Wedding of the Century" by the Zimbabwe media, after the death of Mugabe's first wife, Sally.

The Paradox of a President Grace Mugabe is premised at the heart of most Zimbabweans minds on whether she can pull it off to become her husband's successor and in the process create a Mugabe Dynasty to Zimbabwe's political crown of national presidency.

Factors supporting her Presidential Candidature 1. First Lady turned President

Grace will not be the first woman who is First Lady to become President of a country. In Argentina, Cristina Kirchner served as President of Argentina from 2007 to 2015, when her husband Néstor Kirchner refused to run for re-election in 2007 and proposed Cristina Kirchner instead.

This precedent demonstrates that despite the toxic succession politics in Zanu PF today were her opponents have tried to block her presidential ambitions because she is the president's wife, she can still be the national president. In fact her opponents have described Grace's presidential ambitions as a 'bedroom coup', however the Argentina scenario shows that there is nothing wrong with President Mugabe's wife succeeding him.

2. President Mugabe's political support

President Robert Mugabe appears to have anointed his wife, Grace, as his possible successor after recently describing her as "fireworks" and "well-seasoned now" to withstand the political heat within and outside the ruling Zanu PF party circles. In a recent interview, Mugabe said Grace had now mastered the art of absorbing political pressure and criticism, adding that she was "very much accepted by the people" and that "They thought she was an ambitious woman, who would want to work herself into a position of power."

This statement from President Mugabe came after he had closed the door on his ambitious lieutenants by saying that they did not have the skills of statecraft to succeed him. Most Zimbabweans who heard these two different statements concluded that Mugabe was trying catapult his wife into the front of the queue to succeed him while sidelining her rivals. In fact most people believe that the only way that Grace can become the leader of Zanu PF and the country is if he President Mugabe anoints her and bulldozes her candidacy to get her elected by the party.

3. Grace Rallies

Grace marked her grand entry into mainstream Zanu PF politics in 2014 with a string of campaign rallies that spilled into 2015, culminating in the axing of Vice-President Joice Mujuru and several other former ruling party bigwigs on allegations of plotting Mugabe's downfall. She used the rallies to attack and weaken her political opponents while strengthening her position in the party and indirectly in government.

When Grace first launched her verbal attacks on Joice Mujuru in 2014, most people thought she was doing it out of frustration without her husband's support because since independence Mugabe had never sucked any of his deputies. But Mugabe came out of the blue to support his wife and Mujuru was booted out with her allies. Since, Grace and G40 have attacked Mnangagwa and Team Lacoste; it is safe to assume that she has the tacit support of her husband.

4. The Zanu-PF Generation 40

 G40 is a group of Zanu PF politicians believed to be working against the possibility of Emmerson Mnangagwa succeeding President Robert Mugabe as president of Zimbabwe. The group is characterized of younger Zanu-PF members who are savvy and educated. The group is said to be led by Jonathan Moyo and Zanu-PF political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere but is fronted by the first lady, Grace Mugabe.

It is clear that Grace Mugabe is using G40 to create her own political power base by aligning with those that are opposed to a Mnangagwa presidency. G40 via Kasukuwere who is the political commissar is in control of party structures and this works well for Grace should she decide to run for the leadership of Zanu PF. G40 is strongly believed to have the support of both the Youth and Women's League to support a Grace candidacy for party leadership.

5. Grace's Rally Donations

Every time the first lady has been addressing her country wide rallies, she has been dishing out 'goodies' in the form of food and farming inputs. Although this is seen as a voting buying gimmick by the opposition, but due to poverty and desperation in rural areas, this tactic has won her supporters from vulnerable rural communities that are struggling to make ends meet.

Zanu PF politicians are well known for looting farming inputs and food aid that is meant to benefit desperate rural communities. So when Grace Mugabe visits them in the form of rallies and the rural folks actually receive these 'goodies' in the name of the First Lady , most of them are bound to support her because she delivers.

Factors against her Presidential Candidature

1) Sally Mugabe

Grace Mugabe will always be unfairly compared to Sally Mugabe by most Zimbabweans. Sarah Francesca Hayfron known as Sally Mugabe was born on 6 June 1931 and died on 27 January 1992, aged 60 years. She was the first wife of President Robert Mugabe and the First Lady of Zimbabwe from 1987 until her death in 1992. She was popularly known as Amai (Mother) in Zimbabwe. Sally Mugabe died on 27 January 1992 from kidney failure. Upon her death she was interred at the National Heroes Acre in Harare, Zimbabwe. She is remembered fondly with love and affection, as she is still considered the founding mother of the nation of Zimbabwe.

Grace Mugabe is unfairly compared to Sally Mugabe because most Zimbabweans still discern her as President Mugabe's mistress who destroyed Sally's marriage. Most Zimbabweans still feel that Sally Mugabe was the real mother of the nation and find it difficult to accept a 'mistress' in the form of Grace to replace her. Zimbabweans often blame Grace for her husband's overstay in power. The end result of Zimbabweans hatrage and lack of affection for Grace will result in Zanu PF members and Zimbabweans at large rejecting her at the ballot box.

2) Hillary Clinton

Grace Mugabe can be compared to Hillary Clinton who was the First Lady of the United States from 1993 to 2001.Like President Mugabe who is trying to prop up his wife into the Zanu PF succession mix, Bill Clinton assisted his wife , Hillary to campaign to be president in 2008, but she lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama. However, Hillary made a second presidential run in 2016 and she became the first female candidate to be nominated for president by a major U.S. political party.

When Bill Clinton was campaigning for Hillary in the presidential run last year, Donald Trump was able to successfully paint Hillary as part of the establishment that was not serving the interest of the man on the street. Trump did this by associating Hillary with some of the negativity from her husband's past when he was president. This toxic past of Bill Clinton's presidency was one of the key reasons why Hillary lost to Donald Trump last year. By the same token if President Mugabe bulldozes his wife as the Zanu PF presidential candidate for the 2018 elections, she is likely to lose due to his negative past.

And without her husband's support, Grace is a nullity in the Zanu PF succession matrix as she is widely unpopular with Zanu PF members. In the post Mugabe era, most of the 'bootlicking' that Grace is currently getting due to her husband being the National President , will melt away as the 'political vultures' will turn their attention on the 'new president' 3) Liberation Struggle Credentials

Ahead of the 2002 hotly-contested presidential election, the late Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Vitalis Zvinavashe led the service chiefs in rescuing Mugabe, claiming his office was a "straitjacket" and no one without liberation struggle credentials would fit in. The military plays a significant role in Zanu PF internal politics and will resist a candidate who does not have liberation struggle credentials because accepting Grace as a Zanu PF presidential candidate will open the door for popular opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to succeed President Mugabe.

4) Grace's tensions with the Military Grace Mugabe ruffled the feathers of senior Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commanders two years ago, when she attacked army bosses and war veterans at a rally in Chiweshe, Mashonaland Central province. She accused them of plotting with her Zanu PF rivals to bomb her family's private property and kill her son as part of the succession intrigues.

Based on the tensions between the first lady and the military, if President Mugabe bulldozes his wife to be the Zanu PF presidential candidate in the 2018 Elections, she will not have the support of the military, war veterans and intelligence services which have been pivotal to the ruling party winning elections by using strong arm tactics. Grace Mugabe as the presidential candidate for Zanu PF in the 2018 elections will signal the end of Zanu PF as we know it today as it will not win elections without military and war veteran's support.

5) Imelda Marcos

Grace Mugabe is sometimes compared to Imelda Marcos because of her love for expensive taste. Imelda Marcos is the widow of Ferdinand Marcos, the 10th president of the Philippines. She served as First Lady from 1965 to 1986 during the presidency of her husband. Imelda Marcos was infamous for her extravagance and this included owning more than a thousand pairs of shoes, some of which are now housed in a museum in Marikina.

Grace Mugabe is known for her lavish lifestyle. The Daily Telegraph called her "notorious at home for her profligacy" in coverage of a 2003 trip to Paris, during which she was reported as spending £75,000 in a short shopping spree; and in the years leading up to 2004 withdrew over £5 million from the Central Bank of Zimbabwe.

And recently the first lady was caught up in a scandal in which she was accused of buying a US$1, 3 million diamond ring from a dealer in Dubai last year and then seeking a refund after she changed her mind about her purchase.

This penchant for expensive taste has opened doors for her opponents who accuse her of being out of touch with the suffering of ordinary people in Zimbabwe. This love for a lavish lifestyle has caused Zimbabweans to ridicule her by saying that her behaviour was not befitting of someone who claims to be the mother of the nation and contributed to her unpopularity with the general public.

6) Business Empire

The First Family is strongly believed to own 16 farms in Zimbabwe despite the Governments one man one farm policy. The family also has a mansion in Borrowdale Brooke known as the 'Blue Roofs', another mansion that is under construction in Mazowe and has businesses under Gushungo Holdings. The family is believed to also own properties in South Africa, Malaysia and Singapore.

This accumulation of wealth by the First Family led by Grace Mugabe has been criticised by her opponents who accuse her of putting her Family's interest first before putting the country's needs. This very public accumulation of wealth by hook and crook, especially the eviction of farm owners and workers who used to be on the sixteen farms has angered many Zimbabweans who have accused the first lady of being greedy and uncaring resulting in her unpopularity among Zimbabweans.

7) Doctoral Degree Scandal

In 2014, Grace Mugabe graduated with a doctoral degree at the University of Zimbabwe under controversial circumstances. But considering Grace's poor performance at the University of London where she was eventually deregistered after failing most of her (BA English) examinations in 2004, it is highly unlikely she has an honours degree with quality grades to qualify for a Masters Degree.

Grace's graduation with a doctoral degree using suspected under hand tactics has been criticised by her opponents who accuse her of not having earned her academic credentials. In fact, her political opponents have pointed to her indigent political rhetoric at her rallies as proof that she did not earn her doctoral degree.

Grace's political opponents have argued that the desperation of the first lady to acquire the doctoral degree through under hand tactics was an attempt to conceal her lack of statecraft and leadership skills to become the president of Zimbabwe. This doctorate scandal put the first lady in the spotlight and angered most Zimbabweans who have accused her of being a bad role model for their kids through cutting corners and this resulted in her unpopularity among Zimbabweans to rise.

ConclusionIn conclusion, the Paradox of a President Grace Mugabe becoming a reality is like a toss of a coin with the same design on both sides, either way she will lose. Based on the above factors, Grace can only become the President of Zimbabwe if her husband moves mountains and bulldozes her candidacy to become the leader of Zanu PF before his current term ends and automatically becomes the national president.

However, on the other hand, if Grace becomes the leader of Zanu PF she is unlikely to win national elections due to:

· Unpopularity among Zimbabweans
· Lack of Military and Institutional Support
· Stiff resistance from Zanu PF members
· Defiance from War veterans

On the other hand, if President Mugabe does not catapult her to be the leader of Zanu PF while he is alive, Grace will not have a political career after her husband's death. More likely, because she has made so many enemies in Zanu PF and is hugely unpopular among Zimbabweans, Grace is likely to go into exile to ensure her family's safety.

The Writer: Darlington Nyambiya is the President of the Local Solutions Council (LSC) , a leading Zimbabwe Think Tank. The LSC is a Think Tank with members from diverse Zimbabwean communities in politics, business, religion and sports. He is also a Pro Democracy Activist, Political Strategist, Human Rights Defender, Social Media Commentator, Writer and a Business Executive. Contact Details ; Skype ID : darlington.nyambiya , Twitter handle: D_Nyambiya, Email : , Corporate Twitter Handle : lsc_thinktank For more information on Strategic Views on Zimbabwe log onto our website on :Website : Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved. The Article may not be published or reproduced in any form without prior written permission

Source - Darlington Nyambiya
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