- “Gucci” Grace Mugabe may have been the source of the military’s ire and potentially spurred this week’s armed takeover.
- Robert Mugabe is reportedly under house arrest.
- Grace Mugabe appeared to be angling to become Zimbabwe’s vice president and eventually Robert Mugabe’s successor.
Zimbabwe has been under military control since Tuesday, likely ending the rule of Robert Mugabe, the country’s leader since its creation in 1980.
His wife “Gucci” Grace Mugabe – 42 years younger than her husband – may have been the source of the military’s ire and potentially spurred the armed takeover.
“Grace Mugabe clearly wanted more power,” Chipo Dendere writes in The Washington Post, noting her “loyal following, despite the fact that, unlike her husband, she is brusque and to the point.”
Since 2014, Grace Mugabe has been been gaining more political power within the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front party (ZANU-PF), and appeared to be angling to become Zimbabwe’s vice president and eventually Robert Mugabe’s successor upon his death.
Robert Mugabe fired his vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, last week and many suspected that Grace Mugabe was behind the sudden move. Grace was reportedly behind her husband’s decision to fire another former vice president, Joice Mujuru before.
Since 2014 Grace Mugabe had been in charge of ZANU-PF women’s league. At a rally on November 5th, she asked the crowd, “Would it be so wrong if I was elected?”
“Give me the job and see if I fail,” Grace Mugabe said.
Grace Mugabe was widely considered to be the reason ZANU-PF changed its party constitution to make sure that there would always be a female vice president.
“Apparently the combination of Mnangagwa’s firing and [Grace] Mugabe’s open thirst for power disturbed the generals,” Dendere writes.
This seems to have been too much for the higher ups in the Zimbabwean military.
Robert Mugabe had come under increasing criticism from former party members and veterans of the independence movement for his recent actions, such as the firing of his vice president, his refusal to name a successor, and his purging of former allies within his party.
The military has long been concerned that if Zimbabwe were led by someone who was not apart of the armed struggle in the 1970’s, its “revolution” would be threatened.
The military issued a stark warning that they would stop those “bent on hijacking the revolution” the day before the army seized control of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare.
Grace and Robert Mugabe are reportedly both under house arrest, although it’s unclear how strictly that is being enforced. Robert Mugabe seems to be negotiating with the army as to what will happen in the future – both for himself and his wife, and the country
How Grace Mugabe became ‘Gucci Grace’
Born in South Africa in 1965, just one year after the start of the Rhodesian Bush War, Grace Mugabe moved to Zimbabwe when she was a child. At the end of the war and the creation of her current country, Grace was only 14 years old.
In the 1980’s Grace got a job working as the secretary to Robert Mugabe, who was the prime minister – and later president – of the country. Despite both being married at the time, Robert Mugabe has admitted the two started an affair.
After the death of Mugabe’s wife Sally in 1992, Grace divorced her husband and married Robert Mugabe in a massive ceremony called the “Wedding of the Century” by the Zimbabwean press.
That extravagant wedding was only the beginning of Grace Mugabe’s enjoyment of luxury.
Grace Mugabe has spent enormous sums of money, including reportedly from the coffers of ZANU-PF. During a shopping trip to Paris in 2002, Grace reportedly spent $120,000, and around the same time, she personally withdrew millions of dollars from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
More recently, she spent $1.35 million on a ring to “mark her wedding anniversary.”
The shopping sprees have earned her the name “Gucci Grace,” stemming from her reputation for spending lavish sums on herself when over half of Zimbabwe lives in poverty.
Grace Mugabe has also spent millions on real estate deals outside of the country. The Mugabes have property in Botswana, Dubai, and Malaysia. It has also been reported that Grace Mugabe spent millions on a luxury mansion in South Africa.
She also has a history of having a bad temper, and lashing out. In 2009 at Hong Kong, she reportedly assaulted a journalist, giving cuts and bruises to the man because of the many diamonds on her hands. Earlier this year, Grace Mugabe was accused of beating a South African model with an electrical extension cord.
Her diplomatic immunity shielded her from any punishment both times.