Grace Mugabe has graduated from the University of Zimbabwe with a Phd in orphanages, fuelling speculation the Zanu PF leader’s wife could be edging her way towards national politics.
Analysts say news of her doctorate could be the latest sign she may seek to follow in her controversial husband Robert Mugabe’s footsteps.
Now armed with a Phd, a seat in the ZANU-PF politburo and her 90-year-old husband's ear at home, Grace has become a political force as the battle hots up to succeed the only leader Zimbabwe has known since independence in 1980.
In August, the 49-year-old told crowds in Mazowe, Zimbabwe, “the time has come to show people what I am made of,” as she was announced as the leader of the ZANU PF women’s league.
According to the state-owned Herald newspaper, Ms Mugabe’s thesis was on the changing social structure and functions of the family. The report said she chose the topic “because she was interested in issues affecting children in Zimbabwe” and runs the Grace Mugabe Children’s Home there.
Her doctorate was obtained at the same university where her husband is chancellor, who has seven degrees to his name.
Robert Mugabe in pictures
Robert Mugabe in pictures
1/20 Mugabe celebrating his 89th birthday
He spent £400,000 on his celebrations. Mugabe and his supporters tucked into an 89kg cake and 89 cattle were presented to him from the country's central bank. A lot of his country are starving
2/20 Robert Mugabe
Robert Mugabe, 1976
3/20 Mugabe meeting Thatcher
Mugabe said he thought he could 'trust' Thatcher but didn't believe anything Tony Blair said
4/20 Robert Mugabe and David Lange
Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Robert Mugabe (R) welcomes his New-Zealand's counterpart David Lange at Harare airport, 1985
5/20 Robert Mugabe and Indira Gandhi
Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at the Summit of Non Aligned in New Delhi, 1983
6/20 Robert Mugabe receives the Hunger Project award
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe holds up the Hunger Project award as recipient of the Africa Prize for Leadership 15 September in New York, 1988
7/20 Robert Mugabe and Fidel Castro
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe (L) is greeted in Havana by Cuban President Fidel Castro, 1992
8/20 Robert Mugabe and Bill Clinton
US President Bill Clinton points to items of interest on the White House grounds to President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe during his visit, 1995
9/20 On Blair's criticism
"So, Blair keep your England, and let me keep my Zimbabwe"
10/20 Robert Mugabe with his wife and Queen Elizabeth
Britain's Queen Elizabeth with President Mugabe of Zimbabwe and his wife, pose for photographers after being the Queen's guest at Buckingham, 1997
11/20 Robert Mugabe with Nelson Mandela and Sam Nujoma
South African President Nelson Mandela (C) and his counterparts, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (L) and Namibia's Sam Nujoma (R), shake hands after a joint pressconference in Pretoria, 1999
12/20 Robert Mugabe prays
Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe prays at Harare Catholic cathedral church during a special requiem prayer for the late the country's founding father and liberation war hero Joshua Nkomo, 1999
13/20 Robert Mugabe and Idriss Deb
Presidents Idriss Deby of Chad (L) and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe attend a tree-planting ceremony on the African Union (AU) square in Ouagadougou, 2004
14/20 A controversial appearance on behalf of Nandos
Colonel Gaddafi sprays Robert Mugabe with water in the TV advert. His role in the spoof was played by a lookalike
15/20 On the West
"Countries such as the U.S. and Britain have taken it upon themselves to decide for us in the developing world, even to interfere in our domestic affairs and to bring about what they call regime change"
16/20 On voting
"Our votes must go together with our guns. After all, any vote we shall have, shall have been the product of the gun. The gun which produces the vote should remain its security officer - its guarantor. The people's votes and the people's guns are always inseparable twins"
17/20 On food aid
"We are not hungry... Why foist this food upon us? We don't want to be choked. We have enough" 1.5 million people were starving in 2005, especially in the drought-stricken south. Food aid became politicised
18/20 On power
"It may be necessary to use methods other than constitutional ones"
19/20 Robert Mugabe with his family
Zimbabwes President Robert Mugabe (R) and his wife Grace (L) with their 24-year-old first-born child and only daughter Bona Mugabe (C) pose after the convocation at MDIS-University of Wales graduation ceremony in Singapore, 2013
20/20 Robert Mugabe votes
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (L) casts his vote by his wife Grace and daughter Bona (R) at a polling booth in a school in Harare, 2013
A source at the University of Zimbabwe told The Zimbabwean: "This is a political conferment. A lot of politically connected individuals have been getting free degrees here and at other state universities.”
The University declined to comment on the reports but a source there told Reuters she enrolled for a masters in 2011 and her tutor considered her research to be "ground-breaking and contributing enormously to the body of knowledge" so it was upgraded to a doctorate.
Her qualification was celebrated in ZANU-PF, where it was also taken as a sign of her rising prominence.
"It was not given. It was acquired quietly without her telling the world," ZANU-PF Member of Parliament Justice Mayor Wadyajena said a day after her graduation.
"Women, youths and chiefs say to Dr. Mugabe, the sky is the limit."
Known for her European shopping sprees and the EU sanctions placed on her in 2002, Mrs Mugabe is a divisive first lady.Reuse content