By Blessings Mashaya and Tendai Kamhungira
The First Lady, Grace Mugabe, mauled presidential spokesperson George Charamba yesterday and left Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa hanging by the skin of his teeth as she declared that she is back again to make the crooked in Zanu PF straight.
In her address, which was pregnant with meaning and innuendo, Grace insinuated that the First Family’s relations with Mnangagwa, who has worked with President Robert Mugabe for nearly 55 years, had become strained.
While she did not go into detail to state where the wheels could have come off, Grace appeared to intimate that the vice president could be getting impatient to succeed her husband.
She also revealed a plot that she foiled within Zanu PF, whose intention was to depose Mnangagwa from his position.
Mnangagwa, along with Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, assumed their positions in December 2014.
This followed the dismissal of Joice Mujuru from Zanu PF and government on allegations of planning to seize power from Mugabe, whom she had deputised for 10 years.
Addressing thousands of Zanu PF supporters who attended her husband’s youth interface rally in Chinhoyi yesterday, the first lady gave Mugabe’s deputy some nail-biting moments.
“President, you chose me as your friend at home and, at work you chose … Mphoko and Mnangagwa. Myself, Mphoko and Mnangagwa, we are serving at the pleasure of the president. If we fail you, (you) can fire us at any given time,” said Grace. “However, it is difficult to divorce me as your wife. If you try to divorce me, I will go to courts ndakatsika madziro (contesting the divorce)”.
The first lady then zeroed in on one of her targets for the afternoon — Mnangagwa — telling her audience how close their families were before something she could not mention rocked their friendship.
“Let me tell you something: It is not the number of years we have walked with this man that matters. What matters is what we do during his absence. We were given jobs to do by the president (and) we must concentrate on that. Mphoko I know him very well even before he was appointed as ambassador: We are good friends,” she said.
“VaMnangagwa, I said it before that he is also my friend asi kanavo vakandirasa nhasi, handizivi kuti tichiri pamwe chete here (I don’t know if we are still friends) but ndisahwira vangu. Kufa kwakaita mudzimai wavo, vaiuya vachiti vana vakura vava navazukuru, vachituma vana kwandiri. Ndozvandoda kuti zvirambe zvichiitika pakati penyu vaMnangagwa neni (we have been friends with Mnangagwa for a long time and when his wife died, he would send his children to me saying they had grown into adulthood and had even given him grandchildren. We want that relationship to prevail once more).
“I am saying this because there is something happening in our party. I want to play my role as the mother without fear. This other time I was called by certain people; they told me let’s go to the streets; we want to remove Mnangagwa. I told Mnangagwa that I was phoned by certain people who wanted to demonstrate against him.
“After that, I told the people who were planning that demonstration that they do not have powers to remove the vice president (because) he was appointed by the president, and if we go to the streets we will create unnecessary noise, which means that we are insulting the president who is the appointing authority. I then refused. Even me, the wife of the president, I do not have the mandate to remove a vice president.”
Zanu PF’s escalating succession wars have mainly been fought between Mnangagwa’s allies and a faction known as Generation 40 (G40).
Grace also insisted that the president has an important role to play in appointing his successor.
“The president is still fit. I know the Constitution very well (as) I am educated. We elected president Mugabe but what I was saying, when the president said he needs to rest (is that) he must be part of the process (of choosing his successor), whether you want it or not.
“He is our president who was chosen by the people to lead us, so he is going to lead us in choosing (his successor). You heard Kudzanai (Chipanga) saying everything starts with Amai, munhu wese kunaAmai. Without his (Mugabe’s) blessings, you can’t be the president of this country. We are going to meet next time – watch this space.”
Loosely translated, “Munhu wese kunaAmai,” means everybody in support of the mother (Grace). It’s a call for unity around the first lady, as the mother of the nation.
Grace also had some tongue lashing for Charamba, the presidential spokesperson, who he said must concentrate on his job, and stop attacking ministers who are way more senior than him.
“Where is Charamba, where are you George, George you are a prolific writer, you are an avid reader, I respect you for that. I respect you for your intellectual capacity. I have known you for years when we were working together. I want to tell you today as my child. George is employed in the President’s Office as the presidential spokesperson and secretary for information,” she said.
“We are seeing in The Herald there are only specific people who are being publicised for good things only; some are left out. You think we are not seeing, we are seeing what you are doing. Don’t do that. I have worked with George for a long time. I was trying to put him closer to me but you did not reciprocate. We don’t want that from you, George.
“You cannot separate the president and his wife — you cannot do that. The day you wed with your first wife, I came (to your wedding). You know that one of your children is my friend. You must wait. I am the wife of your father (Mugabe). He (George) knows about my projects in Mazowe but he is not coming to write about that. He is busy writing nonsense and failing to write developmental stories. You must respect ministers and if they do something wrong, you must tell the president, you are junior to ministers so respect them, don’t attack them,” said the first lady.
Charamba is one of the longest serving permanent secretaries in Mugabe’s government.
He has consistently served in the information ministry since 2000.
He is also a prolific writer, who used to run a weekly column in the State-run Herald newspaper, under the pen name, Nathaniel Manheru.
Through the column, Charamba savaged Zanu PF’s opponents, especially the MDC and Joice Mujuru’s National People’s Party.
The column also stirred a hornet’s nest in the ruling party by attacking people who do not share his political view points.
Zanu PF politburo member, Jonathan Moyo, started the column when he was still in charge of the Information ministry, before he handed it over to Charamba.
Ironically, it was Moyo who first disclosed that Charamba was Nathaniel Manheru before the Information ministry’s permanent secretary confirmed it himself as he paid tribute to the late Dick Chingaira, aka Cde Chinx, when he was addressing mourners last month.
The first lady becomes the most senior official in the party to take a dig at Charamba after Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere and Sarah Mahoka.
Moyo, the Higher and Tertiary Education minister, and Kasukuwere have accused the State media of pursuing a factional agenda and both have even sued the State media on defamation charges.
And yesterday Grace told the uppity Charamba who she ordered to stand up to take a chill pill and respect the party hierarchy. Daily News