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Grace Mugabe shows her power

By Mugove Tafirenyika and Tendai Kamhungira

HARARE – First Lady Grace Mugabe yesterday demonstrated the immense power she now wields within Zimbabwe’s body politic when Cabinet ministers and Zanu PF bigwigs scrambled to Harare International Airport to welcome her back to the country after she had been away in the Far East for more than two months.

President Mugabe and wife Grace
President Mugabe and wife Grace

Grace was accompanied by her husband, President Robert Mugabe.

Observers said the fact that senior government and Zanu PF officials had felt compelled to converge at the airport together with her family and hundreds of ruling party supporters to welcome her back to Zimbabwe in the manner they did yesterday spoke volumes about how much political power she now wielded in the country.

Mugabe himself admitted during the ruling party’s damp squib “elective” congress that was held in Harare late last year that Grace now often directed him what to do.

There was much pomp and ceremony as she arrived yesterday morning, with one senior Zanu PF official who spoke to the Daily News describing her welcome as “fitting for a Queen”.

“She (Grace) is now probably the most powerful politician in Zimbabwe, which is why her welcome back to the country today almost rivalled the treatment that the president gets when he returns from his trips abroad.

“To not go and pay homage to Amai at the moment amounts to virtual political suicide and everyone knows this. Her welcome was fitting for a Queen,” the central committee member who requested anonymity said. Among the bigwigs at the airport were Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, politburo member Shuvai Mahofa and fast-rising Youth league boss Pupurai Togarepi.

Mugabe himself only came back from the family holiday late last month, claiming at the time that he had left his wife in the Far East recuperating, after she had undergone a medical operation. Mugabe reportedly sneaked out of the country a few days ago so that he would accompany his wife home.

Speaking at the welcome party, Togarepi wasted no time in reminding the gathered Zanu PF bigwigs that it was in fact “Comrade Stop It”, as Grace is now popularly known in party circles, who was in control. He bluntly told them that the honeymoon was over for those who had taken advantage of her absence to misbehave and frustrate the ruling party’s youths.

“We are happy as the Youth League that mother (Grace) you are back. We were being persecuted when you were away. When a mother is not there, others take advantage and push you, but this is our time to report them to you.

“We are also happy that you have demystified all the lies that were being peddled by journalists about you. Journalists, you are a bunch of liars, but now that our mother is here you will be cursed. Be cursed forever!” he said to loud applause.

“Just as the biblical Mary and Martha believed that Lazarus could not have died if Jesus had been there, we also believe that if you had been here, some of the crazy things happening in the party would not have happened,” Togarepi added.

Not to be outdone, the rotund Mahofa described Grace as God-sent. Addressing the gathering herself, Grace took the opportunity to narrate her health problems and to praise Mugabe for being “supportive”. Surprisingly, she refused to be drawn into the bitter Zanu PF succession battles.

“You need to be strong as women, not just to sit back. Despite not feeling well, I have remained strong, I have energy. This is the third operation that I have undergone in my life so I cannot say I am a complete human being. In 1986, I had my tonsils removed. They did tonsillectomy on me because I had problems with my throat which was always sore. In 1996, I also had my gall bladder removed because it caused severe abdominal pains owing to too many acids… so severe were the pains that at one point I suspected that my cooks had poisoned my food.

“You get to think along those lines when you are in pain. That is the reason why I am particular about what I eat. I cannot eat food like meat now because I must not take fat and even the whole family including baba (Mugabe) now follow my diet,” Grace said.

She confirmed to the gathering that she had had an appendix operation. “It was a minor operation but it took longer than usual to heal because like I always tell you that I am strong, I want to work, and I am clean.

“I used to help hospital staff cleaning my environment and in the process I got infected again and doctors had to reopen it. They (doctors) even complimented my sense of cleanliness,” she said.

Yesterday’s grand welcome flew in the face of recent comments by Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba that Grace was allegedly a private citizen whose prolonged absence from Zimbabwe should not have been an issue for anybody. Daily News

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