Nicknamed “Gucci Grace” by her critics, wife of President Robert Mugabe, Grace Ntombizodwa Mugabe has since grown into a powerful businesswoman, Kingmaker and an Iron lady. She however sees herself as a philanthropist with the founding of an orphanage on a farm just outside the capital, Harare, with the help of Chinese funding.

The 52-year-old earned her sociology PhD in two months from the University of Zimbabwe. Her thesis is reportedly about orphanages but has not been filed in the university library. However, the doctorate gave the first lady gravitas and within weeks of being capped, campaign material with her new title appeared at rallies around the country as she prepared to take over the leadership of the Zanu-PF women’s wing

Having a road sign reading “Dr Grace Mugabe Way” – put up near the dusty piece of land near the Zanu-PF headquarters – shows how ambitious she is. It is fair to say Mrs. Mugabe evokes strong emotions. Her fans applaud her style and forthright nature; her detractors have nicknamed her “Gucci Grace” and “DisGrace” because of her alleged appetite for extravagant shopping. She has been known to wash the ruling party’s dirty linen in public, calling on those she picked on to resign or apologise.

In the recent past (2014), her target was Vice-President Joice Mujuru, and politicians linked to the independence fighter (Robert Mugabe) suddenly woke up to allegations of assassination plots. She said some of them had spent time plotting to oust her husband. A week later, state-owned media made sensational claims of senior government officials going abroad scouting for a hit man to finish off Mr. Mugabe. When Mrs. Mugabe returned home from a trip to the Vatican, walking behind her husband, she openly refused to shake hands with Mrs. Mujuru.

At rallies she explained her behaviour, saying the Vice-President should be sacked from government because she was “corrupt, an extortionist, incompetent, a gossiper, a liar and ungrateful”. Her attacks continued as she said Mrs Mujuru was “power-hungry, daft, foolish, divisive and a disgrace”, accusing her of collaborating with opposition forces and white people to undermine the country’s post-independence gains.

Today, she has taken a swoop at former Justice Minister & Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The first lady has had praise for then Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, whom she said was “loyal and disciplined” unlike Mrs Mujuru who was then seen as a successor to Mr. Mugabe. After several public accusations and public statements on the disloyalty of Emmerson Mnangagwa, President Robert Mugabe has fired his long time ally and Vice President. Mnangagwa has fled Zimbabwe for his safety.

Mrs. Grace Mugabe has not denied the speculation that she may one day replace her 93-year-old husband herself.

“They say I want to be president. Why not? Am I not a Zimbabwean?” she remarked at one rally.

Marcellina Chikasha, leader of the small new African Democratic Party (ADP), says Mrs Mugabe’s “phenomenal rise to power” has astounded many who consider themselves her “intellectual and political superior”.

“Call her shrewd, power hungry or plain old ‘being in the right place at the right time’, this typist has become a kingmaker in Zimbabwe’s succession politics,” she says.

“She is tenacious and determined; she is naive and unpolished; she is feared and has been known always to get what she wants.”

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Seemingly, the stage is now set for first lady, Grace Mugabe to take over the leadership of the South African country at the demise of current President, Robert Mugabe.

– Jereaghogho Efeturi – Ukusare


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