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FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe has revealed that Zanu PF bigwigs angling to succeed President Robert Mugabe had embarked on a smear campaign targeting her out of fear that she harboured ambitions to take over power from her 91-year-old husband.
In a wide-ranging interview with the State media during her lavish 50th birthday celebrations at her expansive Borrowdale home in Harare on Saturday, Grace conceded that Zanu PF had been rocked by power struggles centred on succession.
She said some of the smear campaigns were being channelled through the media.
“We hear a lot of things being said about us (First Family), allegations being made that she has presidential ambitions,” Grace said.
“When these people who actually think they are the ones to take over after Mugabe imagine that Mugabe’s wife has those ambitions, they actually start mudslinging. I know some detractors are writing about it, that Mugabe is grooming his wife to become the President after he retires, and it will never stop because there are people who think they are the ones to take over out there,” she said.
“And they think that if Mugabe is really grooming his wife, we must ensure we pull her down and this is what has been happening. It is all about those people who fear they may wake up one morning with Mugabe’s wife as the President.”
Grace, however, ruled herself out of the presidential race or any other political office besides her Women’s League post, but said some Zanu PF hawks were burning the midnight candle at both ends plotting against her to ensure Mugabe did not anoint her successor.
Observers have said Grace’s remarks were aimed at Mugabe’s two deputies, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko.
Last month, Mugabe publicly accused the two politicians of leading factional groups in the race to succeed him.
Since Grace’s entry into politics as Zanu PF Women’s League boss last year, her influence on Mugabe and Zanu PF has been growing by leaps and bounds with some observers saying she had become the de facto President of the country.
Mugabe himself has admitted Grace’s influence over him and recently, Grace made another more profound revelation that Mnangagwa and Mphoko took instructions from her on how to run government affairs.
Mnangagwa is widely believed to be leading a faction angling to take over from Mugabe, and is now squaring off with the G40, reportedly fronted by political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo with the backing of Mphoko.
In her interview, Grace said those angling to take power had been approaching her to find out if she would be running for the Presidency after Mugabe.
She added: “There are people who come to me . . . and I have told them in no uncertain terms: ‘In future, don’t come and ask me that question. Tell whoever has sent you that they must keep it to themselves.’ I don’t have the ambition to run for the Presidency.”
Grace said she was not interested in politics, but women’s issues only.
“I have never — in any way, in any place, at any time — said I would want to be the President of this country.”
The First Lady also all but confirmed her influence on her ageing husband and his ruling Zanu PF party when she said nothing could stand in her way if she wanted to be a Cabinet minister.
“If I had really wanted, if I had been as ambitious as they say, I would have said yes, I want to be a minister. There was nothing to stop me anyway, but I said no because I didn’t want to,” she said.
Grace said former Vice-President Joice Mujuru had a perfect chance of succeeding Mugabe had she maintained her cool and stopped poking at her.
Her Saturday birthday bash — attended by over 2 000 people and beamed live on national television — coincided with her first anniversary in politics. By Everson Mushava source-newsday