The people of Zimbabwe may have mixed feelings
about the passing of Robert Mugabe. In his last days, he was brutal to his people,
and left his country divided and impoverished. But he was also the founding father of the
nation, who put an end to white minority rule. Grace Mugabe, who is now 54 years, does not
share the complex legacy of her husband. She’s unpopular in many corners, and now that
her husband is dead, her assets and future in the country could even be at risk. It is a dramatic turn-around for Grace, whose
ambition to take her husband’s job, was cut short in 2017, during an apparent coup, that
she was the catalyst for. Grace Ntombizodwa Marufu married Robert Gabriel
Mugabe in a lavish ceremony in 1996, following the death of his first wife, Sally Mugabe,
from kidney disease four years earlier. While Mugabe was still married to Sally, Grace
bore him two children, but their relationship was kept secret from the Zimbabwean people. They had a third child in wedlock. The circumstance surrounding the illness,
and subsequent death of Sally Mugabe itself, is subjected to suspected foul play, and it
can be left to anyone’s imagination. At that point, Mugabe’s revered status as
liberator of Zimbabwe, was a distant memory. His turn towards despotism emerged in 1983,
when he sent the North Korean-trained 5th Brigade, to crush dissent in Bulawayo, massacring
tens of thousands of Zimbabwean citizens. Mugabe and his family started to run the country
as their own. His wife evolved into a figure of fun, with
her shopping trips to European capitals, earning her the name “Gucci Grace”. Her extravagant spending continued through
the late 2000s, at the same as the country’s economy went into free fall. By 2014, as Grace’s political ambitions began
to emerge, her husband was keen to lend his backing. Eyebrows were first raised when Grace, not
known for her academic skills, was awarded a doctorate degree by the University of Zimbabwe. She then took over the ruling Zanu-PF’s powerful
women’s wing, a position that gave her a seat at the heart of the party’s all-powerful decision-making
body, the politburo. And in spite of her political inexperience,
Grace told a rally, that she wanted to become president. She went on to campaign against political
rivals, even succeeding in side-lining some of them, including former Vice President,
Joice Mujuru, and seven other government ministers. But her biggest mistake was moving against
then-vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s right-hand man, who had a strong following
in Zimbabwe’s military, and among the war veterans who fought in the liberation struggle. In his national address after Mugabe’s death,
now President Mnangagwa only had kind words, as he extended condolences to Grace, saying, “Amai Mugabe stood by her husband to the very
end, thus imparting to our nation, a lasting lesson on devout love and care. For that we deeply thank her, as we join her
in the grief of loss and bereavement, which is also ours to feel and bear”. President Mnangagwa’s conciliatory words could
give some insight about her future in Zimbabwe, but it’s certainly a far cry from the words
she had for him only just a few years ago. Grace publicly humiliated Mnangagwa, known
as the “Crocodile”, for his well-honed survival skills. At one political rally, she told supporters
that Mnangagwa had to “stop it”. This line became her way of admonishing those
she perceived, to be trying to take over her husband’s job. She saw plots everywhere. But by 2017, the Zimbabwean army had enough. Alarmed by Mnangagwa’s sacking as vice president,
and Grace’s ever-growing grip on power. If you wanted to get in touch with Mugabe
at the time, you had to go through the First Lady’s office, the army put Mugabe and Grace
under house arrest. By November that year, Mugabe had resigned,
and Grace’s political career had bitten the dust. Now many of the same people she targeted from
2014, are in power and the knives are slowly being sharpened. But Grace continued to draw controversy. In 2018 she fell foul of South African authorities,
over the alleged assault of a model in August 2017, with an extension cord. Her diplomatic immunity saved her from prosecution
at the time. Grace denied attacking the model, and said
she was protecting her son from a “drunken young woman”, according to a 2017 deposition. Once Mugabe’s funeral is over, and the wreaths
are taken away, Grace may find herself exposed on all fronts. Mnangagwa has initiated an anti-corruption
commission, which has seen several former Mugabe loyalists face investigations. Gucci Grace may well be asked to account for
the source of her wealth, now that Mugabe has gone. The best solution for Gucci Grace now, may
well be perhaps to live out her days in Singapore, where Mugabe died, and far from the very people
she tried to destroy. Please check in the description box below,
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