Grace Mugabe, first lady and wife of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, could rise to take her husband’s position once he steps down or dies. The 52-year-old is over four decades younger than her 93-year-old husband and holds a strong grip over the ruling Zanu-PF party.
Once regarded as a philanthropist and shopaholic, she heads the party’s women’s league and has engineered exits of several leaders in line for presidency after Mugabe. Grace’s principal rival Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was sacked earlier this month on charges of disloyalty. She gained huge support from party members, including from Mugabe, for succeeding Mnangagwa for the vice president’s position.
At 93, Robert Mugabe is the oldest ruler in the world right now and he has ruled over Zimbabwe since 1980. Mugabe’s party has naturally nominated him for re-elections due in 2018. However, his health has become an obvious concern and as he has made multiple medical visits to Singapore, all eyes are on Grace now.
Grace said at a rally in 2014 that she would not decline a presidency. “They say I want to be president. Why not? Am I not a Zimbabwean?” Meanwhile, she has maintained loyal support to her husband.
She has been in headlines in the past for more than her politics too. She was accused of assaulting a young South African model with a plug and for allegedly misusing diplomatic immunity.
Notably, she and her husband have been put under US and EU sanctions which include ban on travel. The imposition was done over land grabbing, rigging elections and cracking down on political opponents. Grace met Robert while she worked as a typist in state house. The president was married then to Sally, his first wife and who was terminally ill during that period. Grace married Robert, her second husband, in 1996 and they have three children. Her lavish lifestyle has led to her being called as ‘Gucci Grace’ and ‘DisGrace’.
She was also known to be behind the exit of Joice Mujuru in 2014. Mujuru, a former ally, was vice president and was alleged by Grace for being corrupt, extortionist, incompetent, a gossiper, liar and ungrateful. Mujuru was also accused of joining hands with the Opposition and ‘white people’. In 2017, Grace accused Mnangagwa’s supporter of planning a coup and called for his expulsion.
She has also made a name as a businesswoman-cum-philanthropist. She opened a dairy farm, an orphanage, a move that brought her great acclaim, on a farm on the outskirts of Harare with Chinese funds. She is also a PhD in Sociology from the University of Zimbabwe, however, the validity of it has come into question several times.