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

Harare - As Robert Mugabe’s political life draws to a close, his much younger wife, Grace Mugabe, has made her first move into front-line politics by accepting a “unanimous” vote as secretary of Zanu-PF’s Women’s League.

This makes her a member of the ruling party’s politburo at a time of enormous turbulence in it as various factions square up to push their choice of leader to succeed Mugabe, 90, before congress in December.

The event was billed as Grace Mugabe’s 49th birthday party, but was clearly a well-staged political meeting in the grounds of a children’s home at the heart of her empire in the Mazowe district, about 35km west of Harare.

Zimbabwe’s Newsday newspaper reported on Saturday that the women “fell over themselves” to endorse Mugabe into Zanu-PF Women’s League structures. It said that Zanu-PF and national vice-president Joice Mujuru did not attend the event.

The pro-Zanu-PF state daily, the Herald, said Mugabe claimed she was “shocked” when her name was put forward by a group of women.

The current women’s league boss, Oppah Muchinguri, said Mugabe deserved a leading political role.

“When you married the president you offered to make his troubles yours and you have been there with him ever since, even in the light of attacks by paparazzi and the West. You fought for us and the country and the only way we can repay you is to ask you to lead us,” she told a crowd of women.

“Newspapers have written bad things about you, including that you had grabbed a farm, but you have stayed strong.”

Mugabe moved early to take over white-owned farms and several land analysts believe she controls more of the best cropping land in the country then any other person.

She was also backed by a South African businessman, known as Jack Ping, who financed much of her top class dairy in Mazowe and provided funds for her to build a children’s home as well as an expensive private school.

However, the two fell out six years ago over a gold mine in which both were shareholders. - Independent Foreign Service

Cape Times