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THE scramble has started in Zanu PF not to attract the wrong kind of attention by saying nothing with leaders falling over each other to express their support for Grace Mugabe after she formally entered the political fray at the weekend.

The First Lady is set to take up a seat on the ruling party’s supreme decision-making body, the politburo, after she was nominated as head of Zanu PF’s women’s league.

The significance of the move was illustrated by former finance minister and opposition leader, Tendai Biti, who said Grace would be the next leader of Zanu PF, taking over from her 90-year-old husband.

“This was always his card,” Biti told the UK-based Telegraph newspaper. “This is why we have seen him not choosing between Mnangagwa and Mujuru.

“It doesn’t matter if she is not educated. This is Africa. Look at what happened with Odinga (the Kenyan president) and Equatorial Guinea.”

Since the move was announced at the weekend, top Zanu PF leaders have been rushing to express their delight at her decision.

Said Transport Minister Obert Mpofu: “It’s something that we are happy about and that we really support. The move will help strengthen the party and bring about unity.”

Sports Minister Andrew Langa added: “We are happy that the Women’s League appreciates that the First Lady is a hard worker.”

Provincial structures of the party including the youth and women’s leagues have also voiced their support for ‘Amai’.

University of Zimbabwe lecturer Professor Eldred Masunungure told the weekly Standard newspaper that the First Lady’s political designs reached beyond the women’s league.

He said her decision suggested a dark horse could emerge in the succession race which has, to date, been seen as pitting Vice-President Joice Mujuru against justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“It goes beyond the Women’s League. The ultimate prize is the presidency and neither Mujuru nor Mnangagwa will take that,” said Masunungure.

“Gushungo (Mugabe) wants to make a statement that there is no room for factionalism. The next occupant of State House is definitely going to be a dark horse,” he said.

“The First Lady will not succeed Gushungo but what it means is the two will look around for someone, that is if they haven’t done that already, who will be able to defend and promote their interests after the president has vacated State House.

“He (Mugabe) wants someone from his family. He wants to shield himself from the unknown and have someone who shares a bed with him in power. It’s an understandable decision and you wouldn’t want someone who rocks the boat.”

But Piers Pigou of the International Crisis Group, told The Telegraph that it was possible the willy Mugabe was engaging in his usual smoke and mirrors game, throwing up a diversion aimed at disguising what is really going on.

“It may … be a diversionary tactic to distract from what’s really going on inside Zanu PF,” Pigou said.

“Grace Mugabe is unpopular in the country and disliked by senior members of the party. She is tolerated but she has never demonstrated any political acumen or vision.

“She plays the role of a philanthropic first lady and praise singer for her husband and will continue to do the same inside the women’s league.”

Zanu PF administration secretary and key Mujuru ally, Didymus Mutasa, rejected suggestions that the Grace dynamic was an attempt to block the vice-president from the top job.

“I don’t see how Amai Mujuru is connected to the rise of amai (First Lady),” Mutasa told the Daily News.

“We cannot talk about amai (First Lady)’s nomination as a bid to block Amai Mujuru to ascend because there is no vacancy to talk about.

“We will only talk about that when a vacancy arises and as of now, we can’t be talking about that. We will cross the bridge when we get there.”

Source : New Zimbabwe