Former Minister of Women's Affairs, Gender and Community Development (2005-2009) and Manicaland Governor (2000-2003)
Date of Birth: 1958
Career: Private Secretary to the President, 1980-81; Deputy Minister of State for External Affairs, 1989-93; Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, 1993-97; Deputy Secretary General of the Government Party and later Party Secretary of Education and Deputy Secretary of Women's Affairs, 1993-97; Minister of State in the President’s Office, 1997-2000; Minister of Women's Affairs, Gender and Community Development, 2005-09.
Commentary: In Oppah Muchinguri, looks and luck have combined with political acuity to make her a formidable force in the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front’s faction-fighting. Currently she is challenging Vice-President Joyce Mujuru for the leadership of the ZANU-PF Womens’ League. As an aide to Josiah Tongogara, the military commander of ZANU’s Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army in Mozambique, Oppah was a fellow passenger in the car crash which killed Tongogara on the eve of Independence in December 1979. Miraculously, she emerged unscathed.
In the late 1980s and 1990s she held several junior ministerial posts under her married name of Rushesha and became close to Robert Mugabe. Her marriage ended in the late 1990s in a messy divorce, and she reverted to her family name of Muchinguri.
Mugabe appointed her Governor of Manicaland (although the province voted overwhelmingly for the Movement for Democratic Change). She now works closely with Emmerson Mnangagwa. Their strategy is to dethrone Joyce Mujuru at the Women’s Congress in August and then seek her removal as party Vice-President at the full congress in December. They are believed to have the support of First Lady Grace Mugabe.
Mujuru will stoutly defend herself but the accusation that she works hand in glove with Morgan Tsvangirai’s faction of the Movement for Democratic Change will be given an additional twist by the fact that, whether by design or coincidence, she travelled on the plane returning Tsvangirai from his three-week international fundraising foray in June and so was greeted by the assembled MDC airport welcoming party (many of whom had skipped Mugabe’s hastily rescheduled cabinet meeting).
Meanwhile, Muchinguri has been despatched with Mnangagwa to Asia by Mugabe on a mission to raise funds and so upstage Tsvangirai’s modest US$300 million in humanitarian aid packages from the West. Tsvangirai’s announcement of China’s $950 mn. credit-line offer is now thought to refer to a facility mooted four years ago but recently resurrected.