MUTARE, MANICALAND —
Some Zimbabweans in Manicaland province say despite First Lady Grace Mugabe’s well-attended rallies around the country, she does not command enough support to take over the reigns from her husband, if she decides to go for the top office in the land.
At the same time, locals from various walks of life are divided over the first lady’s role following her entrance full time into politics.
It’s really a mixed bag but in Manicaland, most people like James Mundenda of PADARE, say Mrs. Mugabe is not as popular as some in her party would want her to believe, adding a presidential bid will not succeed.
Mundenda said, “The majority of people who support her is on the basis of her being the first lady. Now, the question now is if she were not a first lady was she going to have the support that she seems to enjoy.”
There’s belief among many in Zimbabwe that the first lady is gunning for her aging husband’s position to protect her family interests resulting in fissures growing in the ruling party ahead of its annual conference in Victoria Falls.
Mundenda says Mrs. Mugabe’s road to the presidency would not be as easy, if she decides to become a contender.
“Yes, she has support in her party and her ambition to be the president is another tricky issue as in Zanu PF there is the notion where they seem not ready to have a woman as president. So, she wants to come in from a party which believes that they cannot have a female at the helm, and I think its going to be an uphill task for her.”
Coordinator David Mutambirwa of the Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Association says despite her work with orphans and the disadvantaged, Mrs. Mugabe does not have meaningful support from women in particular to warrant ambitions for the highest office in the land.
Mutambirwa said, “There is no support as far as I am concerned which is associated with Grace Mugabe, apparently she is enjoying the support given the people that surround her who are after protecting what they have gained over the years such as the resources and properties.”
He says the entry of Mrs. Mugabe into active politics has so far seen many causalities within a short space of time, a thing that may work against her in the future.
Mutambirwa says those that seem to support her in Zanu PF only do so to allegedly protect their ill-gotten wealth.
“They use structures to further their hegemony and the entrance of Mrs. Mugabe into politics has seen many loses within Zanu PF given the fall of Amai (Mrs.) Joice mujuru and others, and to me the gains of the past have been lost. Those that are supporting her are also very few and have their own interests as well.
Zimunya resident Godfrey Makoni agrees with Mutambirwa.
“What I think is that she takes people for granted and thinks that office is that of the royal family where support is guaranteed by tradition but in this respect she is misplaced … The women even in Zanu PF in the streets talk against her and not respect her. People fear her and her husband and if this is taken for respect it is most unfortunate.”
Makoni says efforts by the so-called Generation 40 group in Zanu PF to push the first lady into the presidency may just be a pipedream.
He says, “It’s a dream which will never come true and I think if ever there should ever be a women who could take the highest office it could have been Joice (former Vice President Mujuru). At the moment I see a different person altogether and that could be (Vice President Emmerson) Mnangagwa, but he too has to battle it out with the so called G40.”
But political activist and Mutare resident Eve Charengwa believes that Mrs. Mugabe can get what she wants as long as Mr. Mugabe is still around and supports her.
“She can get the highest office as long as the husband is still alive and if mentored or modelled along those lines in addition to getting her husband’s support,” says Charengwa.
Mutare lawyer Passmore Nyakureba concurs with Charengwa.
“Amai Dr. Grace Mugabe is the secretary for women in Zanu PF and that has to be remembered and the history of her rise was by popular demand and that support can never be doubted as seen wherever she has gone women and others have converged there in their numbers.”
Nyakureba says the first lady is capable of becoming the country’s next leader, adding the only thing needed from her side is the ambition.
“She has a critical mass of people that propel her to that position and among them there are the securocrats and the war veterans as well despite the divisions some of them support her. If she wishes she can rise and ascend to the post if she so wishes.”
With so much happening in Zanu PF, only time will reveal the first lady’s real plans.