The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Chosen to lead the women's wing of the ruling Zanu-PF, the wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding the 90-year old

Harare

She has expensive tastes, owns a lot of land in Zimbabwe and is now entering politics, a move that is causing much controversy in the southern African nation that has known only one leader since independence in 1980: President Robert Mugabe, who is 90 years old.

But this newcomer is no innocent being cast into the wolves' lair: she is Mugabe's 49-year-old wife, Grace, who accepted a nomination last month to lead the ruling Zanu-PF party's women's wing, triggering accusations that Mugabe aims to set a political dynasty in place. Her nomination has already caused infighting in Zanu-PF, with some claiming they've been intimidated.

The Zanu-PF Women's League said it hoped Mrs Mugabe could advance women's issues and help heal "factionalism", because she has "the president's ear". But, like her husband, she has a knack for making fiery, hostile speeches.

Last month, during her acceptance speech for the Zanu-PF post, she all but threatened the deputy justice minister and parliament member Fortune Chasi who, she said, has frustrated her efforts to acquire more land and a conservancy near her farm, which is an animal sanctuary with gold deposits. Some villagers now live there and pan for gold.

At the inauguration of Pope Francis with President Mugabe At the inauguration of Pope Francis with President Mugabe "I might have a small fist but when it comes to fighting I will put stones inside to enlarge it, or even put on gloves to make it bigger. Do not doubt my capabilities," said Mrs Mugabe at the farm in the Mazowe area northwest of Harare.

Robert Mugabe, who has ruled for 34 years and won re-election in a disputed poll in July last year, has already accepted a proposal by the women's wing to be the party's candidate for the 2018 election, when he will be 94. Politicians have been jockeying to succeed him.

Once a secretary in Mugabe's office, Grace Mugabe entered the limelight after news broke that she had had a child with Mugabe while his first wife, Sally, lay bedridden.

Sally, a Ghanaian, died in 1992 from kidney failure. Robert Mugabe has since said that Sally knew about and approved of Grace, since they were childless and he wanted to have children.

Mugabe’s first wife, Sally Hayfron Mugabe’s first wife, Sally Hayfron After a Catholic wedding in 1996, Mrs Mugabe made headlines for alleged expensive shopping trips, a fiery temper, and the acquisition of huge tracts of land under her husband's controversial land-reform programme.

The couple have three children, and Mrs Mugabe has another son from an earlier marriage to a retired air force officer.

She joined Mugabe on the political campaign trail in 2008 after he lost the first round of voting to opposition leader and main rival Morgan Tsvangirai. Mugabe won the subsequent runoff. Last year, during the election campaign she attracted attention for comments such as her description of Tsvangirai as "ugly".

Now rival factions have begun openly attacking each other's credentials. Vice President Joice Mujuru and Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa – both veterans of the country's 1970s liberation war – have been long-time front-runners to replace Mugabe.

A member of the Zanu-PF Youth League from Harare lodged a police report last week, alleging he had been assaulted by fellow party members for backing Mrs Mugabe.

On Monday, Mugabe's close nephew and Zanu-PF politician Patrick Zhuwawo claimed there was a plot to "push" Mrs Mugabe from Harare by disgruntled party members who want to "relegate the First Family to the Zvimba [Mugabe's home village]".

Other Youth League members also claim they are being targeted. Godfrey Gomwe told the state-run Herald newspaper that soon after a provincial youth committee, which he led, had endorsed Mrs Mugabe, his committee was slapped with a no-confidence vote.

Such "turf fights" were normal before party leadership congresses, and the "fuss" over Mrs Mugabe would not affect party cohesion, said Zanu-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo.

"This phase will pass after the congress," he said, referring to December's congress, in which the president will have the final word on his wife's appointment as Secretary of the Women's League of Zanu-PF.

Grace at the graduation of their daughter, Bona Grace at the graduation of their daughter, Bona But Eldred Masunungure, a political science professor at the University of Zimbabwe, believes Mrs Mugabe lacks the experience to be head of the Zanu-PF women's league, much less for the presidency, if that ever becomes her aim. "Her entry into politics is part and parcel of her desire to protect her interests," said Professor Masunungure.

At a public debate at a Harare hotel on Thursday night, a Zanu-PF panellist, Goodson Nguni, defended Mrs Mugabe's entry into politics after several people accused her husband of creating a dynasty. "It is our right as Zanu-PF to choose President Mugabe to lead the country and the First Lady to lead the Women's League," Nguni said.

Human rights advocate Gabriel Shumba complained that the ruling party seems more concerned with succession than fixing the economy. Zimbabwe has severe economic problems. The government has cut economic growth forecasts for 2014 by half, to three per cent, while the World Bank predicts economic growth of only two per cent.

Hundreds of companies have closed in the past year. Tens of thousands of Zimbabwean families have fled economic hardships in recent years, settling mainly in former colonial power Britain and neighbouring South Africa.

But there is one family that appears set to stay for the foreseeable future: that of Mr and Mrs Mugabe.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy