Although she may not be in politics outright like her predecessor Sally, Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe seems to be doing more damage to her husband because of her extravagancy. At a time when the country is reeling under economic hardship with inflation now pegged at 29.8 percent, unemployment around 50 percent, and workers not happy with wage increases below 30 percent, reports say she is building a $3 million house in her home town of Chivhu about 140 km south of Harare.
The double-storey house is said to have 24-rooms and six bathrooms. As the country’s First Lady, she obviously deserves decent accommodation but she has just completed a $6 million mansion in Harare’s posh suburb of Borrowdale with funds obtained from a scheme meant for civil servants although she is reported to have repaid the money. She is not living there and has put up the house for sale for $25 million but this has now been reduced to $20 million.
Besides, there is another mansion at her matrimonial home in Zvimba which was built by Sally which she never occupied.
Still only 34 years, people are looking at her as someone all out to make money before President Mugabe goes. They blame her for Mugabe’s frequent trips out of the country as well as his continued stay in power despite intense calls for him to step down even from his own lieutenants who now consider him to be a political liability.
Grace is also reported to be setting up businesses all over and during the food riots in Harare, one supermarket chain in the high density suburbs of Harare was cleaned out by looters, most of whom turned out to be ZANU-PF supporters, because they claimed the supermarkets did not belong to the businessman under whose name they are trading but to the First Lady.
Despite the present turmoil and her own pledge to keep out of politics when she wedded Mugabe in 1996, she is increasingly appearing in public and there is speculation she may be having second thoughts on politics.
While President Mugabe has complained about the media meddling in people’s private lives, there is a thin line between the public and private life of a public figure. Besides, some people are asking questions about whether she is carrying all these projects on her own or, as a respected wife, she has the blessing of the President.