Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace. File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

Harare - Grace Mugabe, 49, has warned those who oppose her not to “play with fire”.

She was, on Thursday, endorsed by the Zanu-PF youth wing to lead the party’s women’s league, and is now on the home straight as all 10 provinces support her as the next women’s boss, a position which gives her a place in the politburo.

At the Zanu-PF youth meeting she said she was tough, and strict, and would, if necessary, use her “fists and stones” to do her job in politics as the next Zanu-PF women’s boss.

“My time has come to show people what I am made of,” she said. She also told the youth league she had studied President Robert Mugabe, 90, for many years: “I will emulate his candid and visionary leadership.”

In a carefully choreographed entry into the big time of Zanu-PF politics, present women’s league president, Oppah Muchinguri, stepped aside to make way for Grace Mugabe to take over, which analysts say is part of the struggle between factions in the bruising battle to succeed Mugabe when he retires or dies.

No one is yet sure whether Mugabe will step aside at the Zanu-PF congress in December.

Commentators say Zanu-PF is embroiled in bitter faction fights between supporters of Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa to replace Mugabe, while Vice-President Joice Mujuru has made it clear she is ready to succeed the old man.

Some Zimbabwe newspapers predicted this week that Mugabe’s oldest son, Robert jr, 23, was making his way through the youth league ranks.

Independent Foreign Service