By grace, let first lady not take over

Grace Mugabe, wife of President Robert Mugabe, addresses a rally of the ruling ZANU (PF) in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe July 29, 2017
Grace Mugabe, wife of President Robert Mugabe, addresses a rally of the ruling ZANU (PF) in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe July 29, 2017
Image: REUTERS

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has done what until this week seemed unthinkable; he dramatically sacked his loyal lieutenant, vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The 93-year-old Mugabe and his prot�g� had worked together for decades, forming a formidable partnership that has dominated Zimbabwean politics since independence in 1980.

Mnangagwa, who has held various senior government positions including the security ministry, was until recently touted as Mugabe's likely successor.

The 75-year-old seemed secure in his position until he fell out with Mugabe's ambitious wife Grace, 52, who appears to have used her proximity to the president to blacken Mnangagwa's name.

Now there is talk that Grace has been earmarked to fill the post vacated by Mnangagwa. Such an elevation would put her in pole position to eventually succeed her ageing husband when he dies.

Why should the political intrigue and machinations of Zimbabwean politics matter to South Africans?

It matters because we share a border and our economies are linked. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Zimbabweans, fleeing hardships brought about by Mugabe's ruinous, populist economic policies and his crackdown on political opponents, now live in our country. This has put a huge strain on our limited resources.

It is in our national interest that Zimbabwe's economy is rebuilt so that the country is self-sufficient and able to look after its own citizens. But that can only happen when the country has a legitimate and stable government.

Unfortunately, it seems Mugabe does not care about the welfare of his people and is determined to install his wife as his successor, whatever the cost to his country and its long-suffering people.

The opposition parties, who should be ideally placed to dislodge the Mugabe regime at the next general election and end the nightmare, are in disarray.

Complicating matters further, the one man who used to have the charisma and popularity to challenge Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change, is unwell and has been in and out of hospital.

So Mugabe and his wife remain unchallenged for now, which means the future continues to look bleak for Zimbabweans.

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