Zimbabwe’s First Lady Grace Mugabe last week called for ouster of the incumbent vice president Joice Mujuru, a move that has angered not only party members but ordinary citizenry sympathetic to Joice Mujuru.
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Mrs Mugabe in veiled attacks accused the country’s number two of fanning factionalism, corruption and bad mouthing her and her geriatric husband.
Though acknowledging the existence of factions in the party led by her husband, Grace failed to name the other faction other than the one led a by a woman from Mashonaland Central- the home province of Joice Mujuru.
The two (Joice Mujuru and Grace Mugabe) met last Friday at the airport when Mugabe was leaving for Rome but avoided greeting each other.
Analysts are adamant and say the controversial PhD holder Grace Mugabe is a novice in the liberation party’s succession politics and being used by the Emmerson Mnangagwa faction to leverage its weak showing in the last year provincial elections.
The deputy President has not yet responded to the attacks, however her allies have come out guns blazing saying the attacks by the First Lady were undeserving with some laughing off suggestions that Mujuru was supposed to resign.
These attacks come few days before President Robert Mugabe is set to chair the politburo, a party organ largely sympathetic to Mujuru.
Mugabe, not in best shape both due to health concerns and age will face one of the fiercest and divided party rivals in a meeting likely to be a no-holds-barred.
At the centre will be comments made by his wife on the popular deputy president and party’s secretary for administration and the use of state media by the Mnangagwa faction in demonising Mujuru and her sympathisers.
Minister of Information Jonathan Moyo is alleged to be the one manipulating state media to promote the Mnangagwa camp, a faction he is alleged to be aligned with.
“I think it basically tells us that 'he who controls the piper controls the tune". For the first time, it is evident that a certain faction within ZANU PF with access to the means of mental reproduction is using such a tool to vilify, delegitimise and expurgate others as factionalists bend on destroying the party from within,” said Admire Mare, a media researcher and analyst.
“ It is clear the appointment of managers to man public media (broadcasting and press) was done by Jonathan Moyo so that he could further his faction's self-serving interests,” added Mare.
“A cursory analysis of editorials and front page stories tells us a story of the public media which has become an extension of one faction within the ZANU PF succession politics. Unfortunately for the ordinary reader and licence paying citizen, he/ she is forced to read and view self-serving news meant to portray one faction as evil while raising the profile of the other as saints.”
Mare said the public media was caught up within an untenable conundrum where it is being used for name calling.
“It is also clear that the political economy of the media determines what’s getting published, what gets amplified, what’s stopped from seeing the light of the day and whose voice gets used as sources.”
The comments by Mrs Mugabe will likely dominate Wednesday’s politburo meeting customarily chaired by President Mugabe.
Analyst believe Grace was roped by the Mnangagwa camp in bid to win favour of Mugabe few months after the faction’s chief propagandist Jonathan Moyo was labelled devil incarnate by President Mugabe.
“Grace is simply trying to curve her political space after she was co-opted into the ZANU PF factional fighting for Mugabe's succession by the Mnangagwa faction,” said political analyst Gideon Chitanga.
Chitanga who is a researcher at the centre of Democracy of University of Johannesburg and Rhodes added that Grace was trying to secure her political survival post Mugabe era.
“She is basically looking at her political and economic security post the Mugabe era, so in that sense there is mutually manipulation between Grace Mugabe, a novice in the bloody ZANU PF politics trying to advance her political career and the Mnangagwa faction who are fighting Joice Mujuru,” he added.
Chitanga said Mujuru has emerged out of the death of her powerful husband General Solomon Mujuru to dominate the key structures of the fractured party, with the key actors around Mugabe allegedly in her camp as well as the central committee.
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“These structures are important in endorsing any decision or appointment that Mugabe may make. She is considered a moderate and is basically popular across the political divide outside ZANU PF,” added Chitanga.
Chitanga dismissed the possibility of the ongoing factional as a true reflection of a party in transition and transformation.
“Factional fights do not necessarily reflect transformation where transformation means comprehensive change of leadership and frames of thinking. This is merely leadership fights if these fights are not properly managed they will lead to a split.”
Dewa Mavhinga a Human Rights Expert told CNBC Africa.com that the current factional fights have capacity to trigger instability in the country as military was divided along factional lines.
“Zimbabwe is a highly militarised state with extremely politicised security forces whose leadership is openly partisan towards ZANU-PF,” he said.
“Current factional fights could trigger widespread instability because it appears the security forces are not all aligned with one faction, but different security forces leaders appear to belong to different factions.”