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Grace Mugabe fights to win in Zimbabwe’s Game of Thrones

Lacoste and G40 are locked in a death battle to succeed the aging ruler and nothing has been left to chance.

Last month, perhaps tiring of Mugabe’s equivocation on who will succeed him and the power struggles it has unleashed, Grace Mugabe dared her husband to name his preferred successor.

While she would love to succeed her husband personally, that appears unlikely, and so the First Lady instead wants a say in the decision of who will rule the country after her husband’s death; the First Lady doesn’t trust Mnangagwa to protect the vast property portfolio, extensive landholdings and businesses that she has acquired during her husband’s three decade-rule. 

Perhaps the first time Zimbabweans had an insight into the scale of Grace Mugabe’s ambitions was in a cry at a 2014 rally framed at once as a statement, plea and question: “They say I want to be president. Why not? Am I not a Zimbabwean?”

If the lightweight politician does become president, her rise will rank as the most dramatic in Zimbabwe’s contemporary history, even more eye-catching than her husband’s ascension from party spokesperson in the early 1960s to head of ZANU-PF and then leader of the nation at independence in 1980. 

In 1996, when she married Mugabe, she had disavowed any interest in politics.

At the time her entry into politics was unthinkable because of both her gender and relative youth in a conservative society which privileges age and being a man.

“I don’t think I’d like to be a politician, I have children to look after,” she said that year.

“But I look forward to working on various charity organisations. I will try and lead a normal life as much as possible. I have had many friends but not too many. My best friend is my husband.”

She had been plucked in her 20s from the anonymity of the presidential typing pool at Munhumutapa Building, the complex that houses the president’s offices,  to become Mugabe’s concubine.

After Sally, Robert Mugabe’s first wife, died in 1992, the two married four years later in a lavish wedding ceremony which thousands attended, including Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first president.

More recently, as Mugabe’s powers started to wane in his old age, his wife has increasingly stepped out of the shade in which she had been cloaked to declare interest in the country’s top job.

Her declaration was sensational for a person who is not a natural politician and who had lived for so long in the shadows cast by the larger-than-life figure of her  husband and his widely admired first wife, Sally.

Grace Mugabe had been the other woman, which is known in Zimbabwe as “the small house”.

 She was, in those initial days in the 1990s, a mere spectre; someone whose very existence was both myth and rumour.

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