HARARE – President Robert Mugabe’s wife on Sunday said she is ready to succeed her husband as tensions rise in Zimbabwe’s ruling party over who will take over from the country’s ageing leader.
“I say to Mr Mugabe you should … leave me to take over your post,” she said in an address to thousands of indigenous church followers at a stadium in Harare.
“Have no fear. If you want to give me the job give it to me freely,” Grace Mugabe said.
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had been touted as a possible successor to the 93-year-old Mugabe, has recently fallen out with him.
On Saturday the president threatened to fire Mnangagwa, accusing him of fanning factionalism to garner support ahead of a party special congress due in December.
Amid party divisions over who should become leader — an event only likely to occur when the incumbent dies — Grace Mugabe, 52, said the party will soon change its constitution to allow a woman to be vice president.
The move would likely see her replace Mnangagwa and pave the way for her to succeed her husband, who is Africa’s oldest president and has ruled the former British colony for 37 years.
Mnangagwa was appointed vice-president in 2014, taking over from Joice Mujuru — who was axed after Grace Mugabe launched a campaign accusing her of plotting to topple the president.
Mugabe’s wife on Sunday also accused Mnangagwa of a dark past of clandestine plots, including planning to stage a coup around the time of Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.
“In 1980 this person called Mnangagwa wanted to stage a coup. He wanted to wrestle power from the president. He was conspiring with whites. That man is a ravisher,” said Grace Mugabe.
Despite his advanced age and concerns over his health, Mugabe has refused to name a successor.
He has been endorsed as his party´s candidate for next year´s election.
Meanwhile Mnangagwa who is under pressure to quit the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front because he is allegedly causing factionalism says he is going nowhere and will fight tooth and nail against those making a mockery of ZANU-PF’s founding principles, ethos and values.
According to three tweets posted today on the twitter handle @ED_Mnangagwa, the Vice-President says: “my conscience obliges me to uphold the code of conduct of my beloved party i refuse to be drawn into a shameful public political circus
“i will go nowhere, i will fight tooth & nail against those making a mockery of ZanuPF’s founding principles, ethos & values.
“those who violate our party code of conduct because they think they’ve outgrown ZanuPF are free to go&form their own bedroom dynasties.”
It is not clear whether this is really Vice-President Mnangagwa’s twitter page but it carries his picture and was only created in September.
Pinned at the top of the page is a jibe on Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo, which reads: “Just because you have an oversized irregularly shaped head doesn’t mean it can’t fit into a crocodile’s mouth”.
Below the tweet, is an animated drawing of a crocodile swallowing a big headed person who is caressing its head.
Mnangagwa has been under pressure of late from the First Lady and the G40 faction of ZANU-PF which says it wants him out at the party’s extra-ordinary congress next month.
They argue that Mnangagwa should be replaced by a woman.
President Robert Mugabe yesterday said he can fire Mnangagwa any time as it appears that he made a mistake of appointing him his deputy.
First Lady Grace Mugabe said Mnangagwa should go and today she hammered at him again and warned women and youths supporting Lacoste that the faction was finished.
Mugabe is set to appoint a woman deputy after a special ruling party congress next month, the first lady said on Saturday and added that there was nothing wrong if her husband appointed her.
The 93-year-old Mugabe has held power in the southern African nation since independence from Britain in 1980 and consistently refused to anoint a successor. He argues that the ruling ZANU-PF party would choose his replacement if and when he decides to retire.
Grace Mugabe told a ZANU-PF rally in the second city of Bulawayo that the party would amend its constitution this month and the changes would be adopted at a special December congress to ensure that one of Mugabe’s two deputies would be a woman.
Allowing Mugabe to appoint a woman deputy could scuttle the presidential ambitions of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had been seen as a shoe-in to succeed Mugabe. Phelekezela Mphoko is the second Mugabe deputy, but lacks any political base.
Mnangagwa, nicknamed ‘Ngwena’ (Crocodile), has seen his political stock plummet in the last few months, on accusations by party rivals that he was plotting to get Mugabe to step down in his favour. He denies the accusation.
On Saturday Grace cranked up the pressure against Mnangagwa, calling him the “root cause of factionalism” that was gnawing at the ruling party. She also accused the vice president’s supporters of booing her while she gave her speech.
“Before that special congress, this November we need the constitution to be changed accordingly so that when we are going we will adopt the proposal that one of the vice presidents should be a woman,” Grace said in a speech broadcast on state TV.
“What if I get in (as vice president)? What’s wrong with that? Am I not in the party? If people know that I work hard and they want to work with me what is wrong with that?” Grace said.
A visibly angry Mugabe told the same rally that he and his wife were tired of constant insults from people who identified themselves as Mnangagwa’s supporters.- AFP and Reuters