Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, 93, has been taken into custody by the country’s military — and the ambitions of his wife, first lady Grace Mugabe, 52, appear to have played a major role in his downfall. Infamously known as “Gucci Grace,” the first lady has been accused of siphoning profits from diamond mines and the coffers of the Mugabes’ governing party, ZANU-PF, in order to buy luxury palaces, fund exorbitant shopping trips, and, in one instance, purchase a $1.4 million ring. Grace had also made no secret of her desire to rule over the largely impoverished people of Zimbabwe upon her husband’s death.
“They say I want to be president,” she declared at a recent party rally. “Why not? Am I not a Zimbabwean?”
Last week’s ouster of former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, a veteran of Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence who was popular with the military, was largely perceived as a power play to position Garce as her husband’s successor. Mnangagwa, 75, who has not been heard from but is rumored to have fled to South Africa, had also implied in October that Grace tried to assassinate him with poisoned ice cream. According to experts, Mnangagwa’s dismissal may have precipitated the abrupt imprisonment of President Mugabe by the country’s military.
“Grace Mugabe became a Lady Macbeth in the Zimbabwean soap opera: She led her ailing and aged husband to make his fatal miscalculation that he could stand in the face of united military opposition,” said Stephen Chan, a professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. “Neither thought the army would move as it did. Neither announced anything resembling a coherent economic plan to help the impoverished citizens of the country — including increasingly impoverished regular soldiers of the army who, needing to feed their families, cooperated with the plans of their senior officers for the coup that saw the first couple’s fall from grace.”
Grace Mugabe’s whereabouts remains unknown, but sources who claim direct knowledge of negotiations between Mugabe and the army over a transition of power have claimed that she is being held together with her husband in their Harare residence.
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