Those who were around a decade or two ago would never have thought that First Lady Grace Mugabe and Women’s League leader Oppah Muchinguri would one day sing from the same hymn. But it happened last Friday. The things that politics does!
Muchinguri proposed that Grace become the league’s leader and therefore a member of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front politburo come the December party congress. And it looks like it’s a sealed deal yet Muchinguri herself is considered a major contender and rival to Vice-President Joice Mujuru. So why is she backing Grace?
Party spokesman Rugare Gumbo tried to brush this off as a non-event saying Mujuru was in the presidium and was therefore above league politics. Mujuru loyalist Didymus Mutasa also sees nothing wrong although both have been at the forefront of saying newcomers should stop dreaming about getting into the leadership of the party.
The welcoming of Grace, sounds well and good, but people are bound to ask, and rightly for that matter, what is it that Grace thinks she can do in the politburo that she could not and cannot do as the country’s First Lady?
Grace has for almost two decades pulled the strings from behind the scenes at State House. Some people have even argued that had Mugabe not married Grace- 41 years his junior- he would have long retired. This, if true, gives the impression that she is already more powerful than most people think.
But by going into politics and becoming leader of the women’s league, is Grace not climbing down and opening herself up to ridicule in the media and in the politburo itself? Can she talk about getting rid of factionalism when she is a member of the Women’s League which itself has factions?
As First Lady, she is the mother of the nation. Everywoman can go to her when she has problems or needs arbitration. How will she play the role of mother of the nation when she is leader of the league? Or is she already looking beyond Mugabe?
What will her relationship with Mujuru be like? As leader of the League will she be answerable to Mujuru because Mujuru will be senior according to the party hierarchy yet Mujuru reports to her husband?
Why, why, why does she need to stoop so low? Yes, she is only 49 but after 20 years at State House, she too needs to rest and look after her businesses, after the orphanage, after Danhiko.
Is she going into politics because the Women’s League, just like the main wing, has not groomed, and is not grooming, leaders of the future?
When people cling on to power, or refuse to step down, this raises a lot of questions, no matter how good their intentions might be.