Former First Lady Grace Mugabe, the widow of Zimbabwe’s late founding leader, Robert Mugabe, was in attendance at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s inauguration ceremony held at the National Sports Stadium in Harare on Monday. The presence of Grace Mugabe, accompanied by her daughter Bona and Robert Mugabe Junior, was met with cheers from the crowd, indicating that the former First Family still holds a measure of public support.
Considering the circumstances surrounding her husband’s departure from the political scene, where he was “forced” to resign following the military’s intervention and the dismissal of Mnangagwa as Vice President, it was uncertain whether Grace would attend the event. Bona had previously attended Mnangagwa’s initial inauguration, while Robert had been seen at various ZANU PF rallies.
When Grace approached the podium and embraced Mnangagwa, the stadium erupted with noise, creating an impression of reconciliation and potentially signalling her endorsement of Mnangagwa as the leader of the nation in Southern Africa.
Former Vice Presidents Phelekezela Mphoko (considered a member of the G40 cabal) and Joice Mujuru, along with losing presidential candidates Lovemore Madhuku, Gwinyai Henry Muzorewa, and Harry Peter Wilson, were present at the event.
According to Pedzisai Ruhanya, a Zimbabwean academic, journalist, and political commentator, the return of former G40 members to ZANU PF after Mugabe’s ousting reveals the political dynamics within post-ED ZANU PF. Ruhanya who is also the director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI), said:
The trooping back to ZANU PF of former G40 members after the coup against Mugabe as seen at the inauguration of President Mnangagwa and some’s appearances in media spaces controlled by the government indicate post-ED ZANU PF political dynamics.
Some speculate that Grace Mugabe attended the event due to concerns that any misstep could lead to investigations into her family’s “ill-gotten” wealth. Additionally, there is an ongoing divorce case involving her daughter Bona and Simba Chikore, therefore, Mnangagwa could possibly influence the outcome. Joyce Mujuru’s attendance is seen as a move to protect her interests, as she became vulnerable after her husband’s mysterious death. Some say Phelekezela Mphoko’s presence may be an attempt to influence his son’s rape case, as Siqokoqela was convicted and sentenced for raping his 12-year-old niece but is currently out on bail pending an appeal.
Mnangagwa took oath of office in front of Chief Justice Luke Malaba who in 2018 declared Mnangagwa as the winner following a constitutional court challenge. He said:
I stand as a president of all. I offer you individually and collectively, unity.
A number of African leaders, such as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Mozambique leader Phillipe Nyusi, and Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi, attended the swearing-in ceremony. However, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema decided not to attend.
Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) party, called for a fresh vote, claiming the election was “flawed.” However, his party did not legally challenge the results, allowing Mnangagwa’s inauguration. Mnangagwa urged the opposition to seek redress in court, asserting the validity of the vote and cautioning against spreading chaos, with a warning of crackdowns.
According to the preliminary report by the SADC observer mission, the election failed to meet both regional and international standards. Additionally, the EU observer mission described the polls as taking place in a “climate of fear.” The government faced criticism for arresting more than 40 activists from civic society organizations and allegations of widespread voter intimidation in rural areas. While the voting process itself was peaceful, significant delays in the distribution of ballot papers marred the polling, leading to accusations of voter suppression by the opposition.
After years of isolation, Zimbabwe, under Mnangagwa’s leadership, has aimed to rebuild relationships with Western partners. However, his second term begins amidst ongoing economic difficulties, including an 80% devaluation of the Zim dollar this year and frozen international funding. Without foreign assistance, Zimbabwe’s economic struggles are likely to persist, leaving millions uncertain about their future.
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