Political temperatures are rising in Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party after First Lady Grace Mugabe who has been on a so-called meet the people tour took a not-so-thinly veiled attack on Vice President Joice Mujuru calling for her ouster should she fail to apologize for fanning factionalism.
Mrs. Mugabe, who was campaigning in Bindura, Mashonaland Central province, Thursday told thousands of Zanu-PF supporters that the province is where a faction leader comes from and the demon of factionalism also started in the same region.
She added that “but soon we are going to baby dump your faction leader, come congress in December.”
Vice President Mujuru, who is believed by many to be leading a rival faction to that led by Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, hails from Mashonaland Central province. She did not even attend the rally. Mujuru and Mnangagwa have, however, rejected claims they are harboring presidential ambitions.
Political analysts were quick to note that the first lady’s sniping at Mrs. Mujuru is bound to be a nightmare for spin doctor and Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, who has been attempting to water down the remarks and blaming it on the independent media.
On Wednesday, Moyo reacted with outrage after three newspapers alleged that Mrs. Mugabe had called for the ouster of Mrs. Mujuru at a rally in Gwanda on Monday.
Moyo described the reports by the Newsday and Daily News as malicious and an “infertile imagination of their creators”.
But the state-controlled and Zanu-PF leaning Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation for the first time admitted the first lady’s remarks Thursday were aimed at the vice president.
The ZBC said, “In remarks widely believed to have been directed to Vice President Joice Mujuru, Dr. Mugabe chronicled how her family has worked hard to establish the Mazowe Children’s Home, the school and the dairy in Mazowe, and how some in the party have been hard at work to malign the name of the first family.”
The first lady, without mentioning a name, urged the faction leader to go and apologize to the president warning that if the president is not willing to remove her, party members will do it at the congress in December.
At another campaign stop in Matabeleland South, the first lady took a swipe “at do-nothing vice presidents she alleged were piggybacking on the president’s successes”.
She also accused some youths of being used by factional leaders to boo her and cause chaos. The first lady will conclude her tour Friday in Mashonaland East province.
The first lady has so far held rallies in Chinhoyi (Mashonaland West), Gweru (Midlands), Masvingo, Harare, Mutare (Manicaland), Gwanda (Matabeleland South), Lupane (Matabeleland North), Bulawayo and Bindura (Mashonaland Central).
Efforts to get a comment from vice president Mujuru were futile. Information Minister Moyo who has previously said the first lady is not singling out Mrs. Mujuru was also unavailable.
Political analyst Pedzisayi Ruhanya, director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute said rumor mongering is destroying Zanu-PF.
Ruhanya noted that Mrs. Mugabe might have been given wrong information by Mujuru’s rivals.
President Mugabe may have been sworn-in last year, but his advanced age – 90 - and frequent trips to seek medical attention in the far East, are said to be fueling succession fights in his party.
Senior Zanu-PF official and Midlands governor, Cephas Msipa, said Mr. Mugabe should decisively deal with factionalism to avert a possible breakaway by disgruntled members.
Mrs. Mugabe made her first move into frontline politics last month by accepting the nomination for secretary of the Zanu PF Women’s League.
Her election to the post at the Zanu PF congress in December means she will take her place in the ruling party’s politburo and, some have speculated, could even propel her into the increasingly acrimonious race to be nominated as her 90-year-old husband’s successor .