Zimbabwe’s First Lady Grace Mugabe is desperate to become president because she wants to protect herself and her family as she does not trust one of the leading contenders, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, because she and G40 fear his succession could see them stripped of political power or even exiled, a British newspaper said yesterday.
G40 is a faction of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front which is fronted by national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo and backs the First Lady but is now also reported to be backing Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi.
The Telegraph said the recent scandal in Johannesburg in which the First Lady is alleged to have assaulted a 20-year-old South African model has soured relations for Grace Mugabe.
The paper said she is now deeply unpopular among the public, has few allies left inside the party itself, and might struggle to survive if the succession battle goes against her so she is now fighting all out for the top post.
“Make no mistake, what Grace did to that girl will make no difference. She knows people dislike her so she needs the top job and her husband is frail and he will push for her. He is too old to control her,” the paper quoted an unnamed ZANU-PF insider as saying.
“She knows that she cannot survive after the old man goes without being in power. She will have to leave the country if she loses the race.”
The paper said Grace was now one of the three leading contenders to succeed 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe.
The number one contender is Mnangagwa, who the paper said enjoys the backing of the army high command and war veterans and is actually favoured by many businessmen.
By virtue of being Vice-President, the paper said, Mnangagwa can even lead a caretaker government for 90 days if Mugabe steps down – giving him a crucial window in which to cement his grip on power.
But it said his succession is far from guaranteed because his political rivals will fight that tooth and nail to prevent it.
Sekeramayi is now the third contender and has the support of the police, Grace Mugabe and G40.
The paper said “critics deride Sekeramayi as an uncharismatic grey man of the party”.
It also quotes Zimbabwe historian David Moore, from the University of Johannesburg, as saying that Sekeramayi would not be able to hold the line against Grace Mugabe for long if he came to blows with the First Lady.