President Robert Mugabe’s bid to establish a political dynasty has all but collapsed after three of his relatives’ attempts to climb the political ladder were cut short after they were rejected by their constituencies.
The Zanu-PF leader’s perceived move to establish a political dynasty has not been made any better by the 2011 death of his sister Sabina, a former MP who had been a politician in her own right since the 1960s.
In the run-up to the July 31 poll, the biggest casualty in the Mugabe power matrix is Sabina’s son Patrick Zhuwawo, the former deputy minister of science and technology.
Zhuwawo, a former Zanu-PF MP for Zvimba East – which is part of President Mugabe’s home district – was defeated by Francis Mkwangwariwa in the party’s primary polls, denting his bid to reclaim his house of assembly seat in the country’s next parliament.
Zhuwawo’s older brother, Leo Mugabe, who is Mugabe’s eldest nephew, was rejected by his Makonde constituency in his re-election bid in the run-up to the 2008 polls and has not participated in politics since then.
During his days as Zanu-PF’s rural Makonde MP from 2005 to 2008, Leo Mugabe surprisingly distinguished himself as the chairperson of the parliamentary committee on transport and communications, where he pushed for media reforms, including a bid to abolish the state’s monopoly on the airwaves.
He also appeared to be on the rise politically after being appointed spokesperson for Zanu-PF’s Mashonaland West province.
Before venturing into politics, Leo Mugabe was the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Football Association. He was booted out for allegedly misusing a soccer development grant from world soccer body Fifa.
In an interview this week, Leo Mugabe said only time would tell if he would stage a political comeback in the future, but for now he is concentrating on his businesses.
“I have taken a rest and even last time I did not contest. I never know whether I will come back into politics, it will depend on what I will decide. Right now I want to concentrate on my business,” he said.
Leo Mugabe holds shares in several blue chip companies, including mobile telecommunications provider Telecel Zimbabwe, engineering giants Stewarts & Lloyds and Integrated Engineering Group, steel dealer Baldwins Steel and investment firm Themiso Holdings.
Party sources this week said Leo Mugabe has been unpopular with the president, who views him as a problem child since his marital issues with his wife, Veronica, spilled into the courts in 2008, with Veronica claiming that Leo was a womaniser who had several extra-marital affairs and had fathered a number of children out of wedlock.
The same sources said Mugabe was also embarrassed by the arrest of Leo in 2005 on allegations of illegally exporting flour to Mozambique in violation of strict controls on trade in basic foodstuffs.
Prosecutors later withdrew the charges, citing lack of evidence.
Leo Mugabe’s two teenaged sons were also arrested in 2007 on charges of violence. They were fined by a magistrate.
One of President Mugabe’s cousins, Edwin Matibiri, an intelligence operative, was defeated in Zanu-PF’s primary polls for Zvimba North by Ignatius Chombo, who is also the minister of local government, urban and rural development.
The absence of Mugabe’s relatives in this year’s political campaigns has left the Zanu-PF leader and his wife Grace as the only family members who are active ahead of the forthcoming elections.
In recent weeks, the first lady stepped out more than in previous polls for her husband’s re-election bid, sometimes firing salvos at rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s alleged womanising and labelling him a philanderer.
Not qualified to comment
Commenting on this, Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said: “Of all the people, Grace Mugabe is not qualified to comment on the prime minister’s morals because she destroyed the marriage of an otherwise honourable first lady that we had.
“It is sad that Grace is taking us down this route during an important election, where we should be talking about our manifesto, issues and programmes that address the people’s interests rather than name-calling.”
Rashweat Mukundu, director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said despite the fact that Grace is campaigning for her husband, it’s unlikely the first lady will get into politics full time.
“Since her marriage to Mugabe she has failed to build a political base of her own. She has failed to build even a following on social issues – a role normally assigned to the first ladies,” said Mukundu.
“If she were going to get into politics, this would have been the time – when her husband is still in power. Mugabe is on his last political mile and it is too late now for Grace to establish any political base. She will disappear into oblivion the day her husband leaves office.”