The Grace effect in Mugabe’s ‘Dis-Grace’

President Robert Mugabe listens to his wife Grace Mugabe at a rally of his ruling ZANU-PF party in Harare, Zimbabwe, on November 8, 2017. [Reuters]

Before he was a dictator, Robert Mugabe was a liberator.

He believed as the man who liberated Zimbabwe, he should lead it until “God says Come”. And the time has come.

Bob died on Friday morning in Singapore aged 95. It is still unclear what he suffered from.

The world’s attention now turns to his wife Grace, who marked the beginning of his fall from grace.

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In November 2017, officers feared Bob was planning on naming his wife as the heir who would take up after him. They would have none of it.

It took a few days before he stepped down.

Perhaps the people loved the man who was once their liberator, but with Grace, they knew where they stood. Not with her.

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A New York Times article described Grace as one with “maneuvers and ambitions [that] unsettled the very people in the military and security elite who had backed Mugabe in return for a share of the spoils”.

The spectacular rise and fall of Zimbabwe’s uncompromising First Lady, Grace Mugabe, had an unusual beginning: an office affair.

When it appeared former vice president Joice Majuru was in line to succeed Mugabe in 2014, he fired her following public rallies at which Grace derided Majuru.

Deeply unpopular among much of the Zimbabwean public due to her alleged corruption and volatile temper, Grace does not have the liberation credentials the military believed are required to be a Zimbabwean ruler.

The lavish lifestyle that earned her the nickname “Gucci Grace” and the political ambition that almost propelled her to the presidency were not evident when she met her future husband.

At first Grace stayed out of politics and was better known for her spending habits, including buying mansions in South Africa, rare diamond jewellery, and Rolls-Royce limousines for her playboy sons.

Zimbabweans also question Grace’s credentials. Eyebrows were raised in 2014 when she gained a PhD in three months.

“They say I want to be president. Why not? Am I not a Zimbabwean?” Grace said at a rally.

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Robert Mugabe