HARARE – President Robert Mugabe has bowed to pressure from certain quarters of the military to explain his wife, Grace Mugabe’s role in the day to day running of the country, Nehanda Radio has learnt.
Military sources said the Joint Operations Command (JOC) has been torn apart since factional wars in Zanu PF were taken to monumental levels resulting in the ouster of former vice president Joice Mujuru and the firing of 16 ministers from the cabinet.
Joc, which brings together the army, police and intelligence chiefs, has been key to Mugabe and his party’s battle for political survival as it operated much like an army embedded in the former liberation movement’s party structures actively working to ensure regime security and continuity.
Joc has always worked behind the scenes to prevent democratic transition in Zimbabwe and campaigned covertly for Mugabe and Zanu PF.
However, some members of Joc expressed concerns prior to the Zanu PF December Congress that Grace’s involvement in the party was going to destabilise not only Zanu PF but the country as a whole.
This week NewsDay also reported that Grace was prodding Mugabe to appoint her Defence minister in the much-anticipated Cabinet reshuffle after she turned down the Women’s Affairs portfolio for being “less glamorous”.
However the Herald today quoted Mugabe, in his birthday interview, saying contrary to reports that Grace was now in charge of the party as well as running the show in government, he (Mugabe) is in firm control of state apparatus.
“She is not the power behind my throne, she came into politics in her own right,” Mugabe said.
“She has just appeared on behalf of the women and the women asked her to go around addressing people…that’s all she did.”
“Because of the dynamism with which she came out, it started giving people ideas vamwe vachiti she is now the power behind the party, she is running what the president is doing. But we have the machinery of the party, we discuss, we decide and now that we have two vice presidents we share ideas,” Mugabe said.
While Mugabe may sugar-coat and explain Grace’s role in the party, government and party officials panicked when she returned from a two-month-long holiday, a fortnight ago.
Top government sources said the officials sprang into action and tried to impress her as she wields too much power ahead of the much anticipated cabinet reshuffle.
“A few days upon her arrival, former secretary of administration Didymus Mutasa was expelled together with the motor-mouth Temba Mliswa,” said the source adding: “This shows the extent of her power.”
She even managed to fire former Masvingo provincial affairs minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti.”
Upon her return the NewsDay also carried an article which stated that she had sent top Zanu PF officials into a panic mode with some fearing for their political lives in an impending major Cabinet shake-up.
Grace is believed to wield enormous influence on key decisions made by her ageing husband President Robert Mugabe, who turns 91 on Saturday.