WASHINGTON DC —
President Robert Mugabe's wife, Grace, says Zanu PF will find it difficult to survive as a party if her husband decides to quit politics while Movement for Democratic Change founding president Morgan Tsvangirai is now a spent force.
Mrs. Mugabe said it will be difficult for Zanu PF to find another leader with rare leadership qualities she says her husband was blessed with.
Addressing hundreds of Zanu PF supporters at a rally she said was officially marking her entrance into politics, Mrs. Mugabe described her husband as a man of integrity, who has worked to better the lives of others.
She said Zanu PF presently has a deficiency of quality leaders, creating a problem as to who has the ability to lead the party in the absence of 90-year old Mr. Mugabe.
The First Lady's statement adds fuel to speculations that her ascent to the leadership of the women's league in December is meant to create a Mugabe dynasty in Zimbabwe. At 49 years old, Mrs. Mugabe is entering the political arena at a time Zanu PF is divided over her husband's succession issue.
Though some people have said she is being used as a pawn in a political game that is much bigger than her, it seems she is emerging as a possible contender.
Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and Vice President Joice Mujuru have for a long time been the major contenders for the top job though they both deny leading factions.
Mrs. Mugabe takes over the leadership of the Women's League from Women’s Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri in December following a well-orchestrated move to smooth her way into politics.
Speaking as if she was reading from her husband's script, Mrs. Mugabe chided MDC-T leader Tsvangirai for his alleged womanizing habits saying the former trade unionist is now a spent force.
President Robert Mugabe with First Lady Grace Mugabe greeting some cabinet ministers and close relatives recently soon after his arrival from the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Partly obscured (left) is Vice President Joice Mujuru.
Speaking about herself, Mrs. Mugabe said Thursday was a special day for her as the rally in Chinhoyi kick-started her political career in earnest.
She said she was not concerned about political titles as some people believe, adding those who want titles should work hard for them.
Mrs. Mugabe wadded into the factionalism debate that is tearing Zanu PF apart as factions angle themselves in a bid to take over from her ageing husband, now 90 years old.
She said it was a shame that senior party members are fighting one another instead of delivering on promises made during last year's election campaign.
Mrs. Mugabe said 2008 was an unforgettable year, adding her husband's defeat to Mr. Tsvangirai in the first round of elections was a wake-up call that leaders should not take the electorate for granted.
She urged Zanu PF leaders to work tirelessly all the time, adding they should not visit their constituencies around election time only.
In a hint that the rise of Mrs. Mugabe will not end with the post of secretary of Women's Affairs, outgoing secretary Oppah Muchinguri told the party supporters that the first lady will be the chief advisor to the president in almost everything.
What was clear from Thursday's rally, Grace Mugabe's first as she enters the political stage, is that Zimbabwe is in for interesting times.
How far the factions will go in trying to assume power is for all to guess as contending groups continue to fight openly in the media.
This is the first time in Zanu PF's history that divisions have reached this stage that think tanks say threaten to throw the country into chaos if the succession issue is not resolved quickly.