The SADC Wrap: Is that a Mugabe Dynasty we see on the horizon?

Each week award winning journalist KRISTEN VAN SCHIE brings you all the news that’s worth knowing from across the SADC region. Here is this week’s SADC wrap.

In what may just be the fastest doctorate awarded in recent history, Zimbabwe‘s first lady Grace Mugabe received a PhD in Sociology last week – two months after registering at the University of Zimbabwe.

zimbabweUnsurprisingly, people are viewing the achievement with some skepticism, particularly those who have actually been through the process of getting a doctorate.

A report from The Standard has an academic saying, “A doctorate involves writing a thesis, after having a research question prepared, write a proposal and then write the thesis where one needs to research on, critique it then it can be marked, but that could take a few years,” and then diplomatically adding, “It varies with individuals to complete. Some just do a thesis while others might do one with some course work, but usually it’s a minimum of three years.”

The Zimbabwean, on the other hand, goes in deep with an unnamed source claiming, “The professor did all the work for her. I doubt if she understands a single concept in the research she is said to have done. I wish that she would publicly explain what her thesis entails.” (It was about orphanages, by the way.)

It would be easy to just write this off with a nonchalant TIA-corruption-boet shrug, but it’s really so much more fascinating than that. Madame Mugabe’s been making all kinds of headlines over the last few weeks: she made a sudden entrance into politics in July when she was nominated to take over as head of ruling party ZANU-PF’s women’s league. And it’s all happening as the succession battle within Zanu-PF goes into overdrive. (You should read what went down in the party’s politburo meeting last week. Off the freaking wall.)

Now, for people outside Zimbabwe, Mugabe kind of feels immovable. And immortal. Like a gargoyle with an iron fist. But the reality is that he’s a 90-year-old man who may not live to see the country’s next national elections in 2018.

By User:DandjkRoberts (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsIn the left corner is a faction led by Deputy President Joyce Mujuru – who was also awarded a PhD last week alongside Grace, though hers seems legit-er. (Also, her house mysteriously burned down. Which is like the second time that’s happened to her. Really.) And in the right corner, a counter-attack by Justice Minister Emmerson Mwangagwa, who also scored a PhD last week. In Ass Kissing by calling Grace the “the queen of the land” (Well played, sir).

What’s that you say? A Mugabe Dynasty?! Well, that’s the theory at least. Mugabe is largely seen as the hand behind his wife’s rise. Two weeks ago, the Zanu-PF chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo issued a statement reading, “I must warn the party leadership at every level, not to use the media to abuse the First Lady’s name for whatever reason. The First Family must be respected at all times.”

And even though she’s not qualified for the position as head of the Women’s League (as the Mail & Guardian reports, “she has not served the party for 15 consecutive years, five of which should have been at provincial level, according to Zanu-PF’s rules governing appointments to the central committee”), it’s all but guaranteed Grace will win the post at the December party congress. Because come now: who’s going to stand against Mugabe’s wife?

Now most analysts don’t see Grace lasting even a day past Mugabe’s exit, but the woman seems determined. According to a City Press report, she said two weeks ago: “My time has come to show people what I am made of. I have been with President Mugabe for many years studying his leadership. I will emulate his candid and visionary leadership.”

Now, now, Middle-Class (White) South Africa: I can hear you guys groaning from here. But guys, we can see this as a bad thing. Or we can celebrate Grace as our other Golden Girl from Benoni. Yeah. She’s from Benoni. Dig it.

Recommended Reading:

  • In his piece “Zanu PF succession: Mugabe now spectator, victim”, Rashweat Mukundu (@rashweatm) argues that the best thing the aged President could do is encourage an ordered debate about his succession, rather than pretending it’s not happening: “The unfortunate message that Mugabe is sending with the elevation of his wife to lead the Women’s League is that he narrowly focused on the welfare and interests of his family and inner circle rather than the rest… by allowing rivals to tear each other up, Mugabe is losing the moral ground to lead Zanu PF and also failing as a leader in protecting the interests of all in the party and ultimately the whole country. The President must awaken to his national responsibility of leading the country and leading also includes planning your exit.”
  • In “The Grace Mugabe political sideshow”, Vince Musewe (@vincemusewe) argues that Grace’s sudden rise is a distraction from the imminent implosion of Zanu-PF: “My contention here is that Grace is really a non-issue and when Mugabe is not there, I can guarantee you that her political fortunes will plummet almost immediately. The view that Mugabe can secure her political future is a pipe dream and I know that there are some within Zabu-PF who can’t wait. We cannot have a Mugabe dynasty in Zimbabwe … it would be travesty.”
  • And for the really in-depth reader, this intense Mail & Guardian article from last month, “The political hands behind the rise of Grace Mugabe”, looks at how Mrs Mugabe’s sudden political appearance is benefiting one of the warring Zanu-PF factions particularly well: “The Mnangagwa faction organised this in the knowledge that nobody will dare try to enforce the eligibility rules with Grace. If they cannot be enforced, a precedence will have been set in which they can no longer be enforced on the rest of the party members. Roping in Grace is also a psychological boost which will show their rivals that the Mnangagwa faction has the support of the first family.”

KvS lesothoLesotho
After reneging on no less than TWO regionally-brokered agreements to bring an end to Lesotho‘s political crisis, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane failed to make any progress in talks last week with the partners of his fragile government coalition. Probably because, more so than ever, he’ll probably be ousted the moment he reopens the Parliament he suspended in June.

The SADC troika on security, defence and politics is set to meet this week to sort things out good and proper – but it does leave one wondering what they could possibly do to force Thabane to comply when he’s backed out of every agreement so far. Oh, hey, would you look at that: 1700 of SADC’s special troops just finished military exercises in Angola…

Now, military intervention is an absolute last resort as far as SADC is concerned, but according to the Lesotho Times, army chiefs from the region got together in Pretoria last week to have a little chat with the new head of the Lesotho Defence Force, Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao. You’ll recall he’s the man who replaced Tlali Kamoli, who was fired by Thabane the day before that Saturday morning attack by the LDF on the police. (That same Lesotho Times piece includes an awfully embarrassing little admission from Mahao: “According to Lt Gen Mahao, the region is ‘very much aware’ that he had failed to access the LDF barracks since his appointment as army chief through the government gazette of 29 August 2014.”)

Meanwhile, in the face of rumours that he’d taken to the mountains with a stockpile of weapons and men, Kamoli unexpectedly showed up right in Maseru last week, thanks to the sharp eyes of a couple of journalists:

Meanwhile, a politician from the official opposition Democratic Congress put out this heart-warming statement last week (I’m lying. It’s not heart-warming, at all. It’s totally over-the-top and really quite scary):

“In fact, if he succeeds in his current bid to replace Lieutenant General Kennedy Tlali Kamoli with Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao, then cry the beloved country. The atrocities and bloodbath that will befall this country will completely dwarf those of 1970… General Kamoli is quite literally and without exaggeration, the last thread by which Lesotho’s democracy is hanging. Mark our words.”

KvS drcThe DRC
An opposition politician in the DRC has been sentenced to a year in prison after making speeches at a protest against president Joseph Kabila possibly running for an unconstitutional third presidential term. (Because, obviously, the best way to prove to everybody that you don’t have tyrannical ruler-for-life tendencies is to have dissenters jailed.)

Union for the Congolese Nation general secretary Jean-Bertrand Ewanga was arrested the day after the June protest, at which he reportedly said to a crowd of thousands, “We say ‘No’ to an amendment of the constitution.” That was enough for him to be charged with “inciting hatred, tribalism and contempt of the supreme magistrature”. He was found guilty and sentenced last week.

According to AFP, Ewanga’s lawyer called the trial “a parody of justice”.

Kristen van SchieKristen van Schie is a South African journalist working at the Weekend Argus in Cape Town. Raised in Namibia, the United Arab Emirates and South Africa, she has reported from the Central African Republic, Somalia, Syria, Namibia, Vietnam, Antarctica, and a ship in the Indian Ocean. She is a three-time winner at the Sikuvile Journalism Awards, South Africa’s premier newspaper awards. She blogs about news from the region at The SADC Wrap. Follow her on Twitter.

– Image via Wikimedia Commons.