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Grace Mugabe launches political career at rally



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Mrs Mugabe hints she sees herself in a position to take over Zimbabwean presidency, saying: “I have so much ambition”


Robert Mugabe’s much younger wife has stepped into the battle to succeed the Zimbabwean president in an address to a ruling party rally in which she proclaimed she was the “chief advisor” to the nonagenarian leader.

In her first full length address to the Zanu PF faithful, Grace Mugabe vowed that her husband would seek re-election at the five year congress due to be held in Harare in December.

The 49-year-old former typist lashed out at unnamed cabinet colleagues of the Zimbabwean leader for what she called secret plots to force him from office.

Mrs Mugabe said that the Zanu PF party would collapse without her husband in the top post.

She said his enemies in Zanu PF were plotting day and night to get rid of her husband in December: “They are good at chanting slogans in the public, but deep down in their hearts they don’t love him. At night they are busy plotting his ouster claiming that he is old hence he must go so that they can take over.”

She accused nameless Zanu PF leaders of taking bribes in exchange for a coup against Mr Mugabe who has been in power since independence in 1980.

“We have been hearing that some people have been leading factions for a long time and now we hear that they are receiving money from the US to remove President Robert Mugabe,” she said.

Having taken over the leadership of the party’s women’s wing last month, Mrs Mugabe stated her entry into politics was the start of a career in her own right.

“Today is an important day for me as it is a day I was asked by women to kickstart my political career,” she told ululating supporters.

Describing herself as “chief advisor to the president”, Mrs Mugabe hinted she sees herself in a position to take over presidency. “I have so much ambition,” she warned.

But party insiders scoff at the idea that the woman often derided in Harare as Gucci Grace could trump the claims of the political heavyweights serving under Mr Mugabe.

A Zanu PF insider, who declined to be identified said: “They must know that Grace is reviled. The old man has no control over anything now, and he is oblivious of what people are saying.”

Ibbo Mandaza, a former senior Zanu PF official, said that the most favoured successor to Mr Mugabe in the bitter succession race was vice president Joice Mujuru, 59. “She is way ahead of all others across all provinces and across the country.”

Mrs Mugabe has a private fortune and sought to burnish her credentials by accepting an honorary doctorate.

The presidential couple are Zimbabwe’s largest landowners after invading a dozen white-owned farms since 2000. She has shares in a non-producing platinum lease, and her well-equipped dairy, an orphanage and expensive primary school were largely financed by Hsieh Ping-Sung, a South African businessman from Taiwan. Through him Mrs Mugabe claims she bought a £4 million flat in Hong Kong in 2008, but he says he is the sole owner.

Brian Raftopoulos, a Zimbabwean political analyst, said Mrs Mugabe’s political ambitions at this late stage of her husband’s life were “symptomatic of the state of insecurity inside Zanu PF”.

The other undeclared contester to succeed Mr Mugabe, should he die soon, or be kicked out of office, is justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, 68, who has a legal background, and is accused by opposition groups of organising violence against opposition parties since independence.

Mrs Mugabe was a married typist in the State House typing pool and mother of one when she met Mr Mugabe, and they swiftly began an affair and produced a daughter before first lady, Ghanian-born Sally Mugabe, died in 1992.

The Mugabe family later built a vast mansion north of Harare, surrounded by lakes and manicured gardens and tall bronze Chinese dragons at the gatehouse.

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