Gucci Grace for parliament? Mugabe's wife may have cunning plan

2017-02-09 14:00
Grace Mugabe (File: AP)

Grace Mugabe (File: AP)

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Harare - Why would Gucci-loving, jet-setting Grace Mugabe want to be a humble MP in Zimbabwe's parliament?

It's hard to imagine the imperious Zimbabwean first lady jostling with rowdy opposition Members of Parliament on a daily basis. But that's the future one local newspaper is suggesting.

Some Zimbabweans have reacted with exasperation to a report in the privately-owned Newsday on Wednesday suggesting Grace Mugabe could be planning to contest a parliamentary seat in Harare in next year's general elections so that she can get into her husband's cabinet.

Newsday quoted an unnamed Zanu-PF insider saying that the first lady "had made indications she wants Harare South [constituency] and the current MP has already been advised to look for another constituency".

"Nobody is going to stop her if [that's what] she really wants," a second party official told the paper.

Super-fast PhD

There's been speculation for two and a half years now that Grace may be eyeing the top seat in Zimbabwe when her 92-year-old (actually, about to turn 93) husband dies or steps down.

Her super-fast acquisition of a PhD in 2014 and her elevation to the post of president of the Zanu-PF women's league are widely seen to be part of that plan.

One way of gaining an upper hand in Zanu-PF's bitter internal fights would be for Grace to get herself into parliament, into the cabinet and from there, into a vice presidency.

That's something her women's league has been pushing for for some time.

Claims rubbished

One of the first lady's closest confidantes, Sarah Mahoka has rubbished Newsday's claims, telling the paper that Grace would never "reduce herself to be an MP."

That's a sentiment being echoed on Twitter. "Why would she take the demotion from president to MP?" one Twitter user asked, suggesting Grace's claim on the presidency was a foregone conclusion. After all, under Zimbabwe's constitution Mugabe has the power to bring a small number of non-elected officials into his cabinet.

Romanticising popularity

But winning a seat in parliament might give the first lady the veneer of legitimacy she craves, says Harare analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya.

"I think she'd want to put the point home that she is electable; that she is loved by the people. You know this romance between politicians and the ordinary people?" Ruhanya said in an interview. "She'd want to romanticise her popularity."

After last month's $1.3m diamond ring scandal, it's hard to imagine Grace submitting herself to an "MP lifestyle audit" of the kind being advocated in the Herald newspaper this week.

But then she could just do what many of Zimbabwe's MPs are already doing and never really attend parliament. "Most MPs prefer to do their private businesses when the house would be in session," the Financial Gazette said on Thursday.

Sounds ideal.

Read more on:    robert mugabe  |  grace mugabe  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa

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