Grace Mugabe Early Life
Grace Ntombizodwa Mugabe (Grace Mugabe), born 23 July 1965, is an entrepreneur, politician and the widow of the late Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. She served as the First Lady of Zimbabwe from 1996 until her husband’s resignation in November 2017, a week after he was ousted from power. She began affair with Robert Mugabe, 41 years her senior, while working as a typist in state house. Mr Mugabe was still married to his first wife, Sally, who was terminally ill at the time. Married Mr Mugabe, her second husband, in 1996 in an extravagant ceremony. They have three children – Bona, Robert and Chatunga. Nicknamed “Gucci Grace” by her critics who accuse her of lavish spending. Named head of Zanu-PF women’s league in 2014, had been tipped to be named vice-president in December. Accused of assaulting a model in South Africa in 2017.
Zimbabwe’s former first lady Grace Mugabe, a polarising figure, had for years been positioning herself as a potential successor to her husband Robert as president. Once a quiet figure known for her shopping and her charity work, she became more high-profile in the ruling Zanu-PF party as the head of its women’s league. She was instrumental in the ousting of several alternative potential successors to her husband’s presidency. However, she did not get the better of her main rival, former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Grace Mugabe Biography and Profile
Grace Mugabe, born 23 July 1965, in Benoni, South Africa, moving with her family to Zimbabwe aged five. By the time she was in her 20s, she had married an air force pilot named Stanley Goreraza, with whom she had a son, Russell. She was first secretary to the President Mugabe, before becoming his mistress and eventually rising to become Zimbabwe’s First Lady in 1996.
Many recall the opulent affair in a ceremony dubbed the “Wedding of the Century” by national press. After taking a job as a secretary in Zimbabwe State House, Mugabe’s official residence in Harare, she met the president in both an official capacity and, with increasing frequency, during tea breaks between meetings.
“He came to me and started asking about my family,” Grace Mugabe once said of their first encounter. “I looked at him as a father figure. I did not think he would at all look at me and say: ‘I like that girl’. I least expected that.”
Robert Mugabe is 41 years older than Grace, yet that never stood in the way of their office romance. Both were still married but the president’s first wife, Sally, was terminally ill, and is said to have given her blessing to the couple before her death in 1992. Goreraza was also understanding – or, at least, as understanding as is necessary when your wife runs away with a dictator – and remains on good terms with the pair. He went on to work for the government.
Before they married in an extravagant Catholic ceremony in 1996, President Mugabe and Grace had two children, a daughter, Bona, and Robert Jr (known as Rob). A third, Chatunga, was born the following year.
Grace Mugabe quickly became both a forceful businesswoman and a controversial figure over the coming years, not least thanks to her spending habits. Given the nickname “Gucci Grace” by Zimbabweans for her extravagant shopping trips, she has been a polarising figure in a country besieged with poverty. Despite this, she has long had the support of younger politicians in the country’s political hierarchy. Most recently, she had manoeuvred herself politically to succeed her husband as the next president – a succession strongly opposed by senior ranks in the military.
According to The Express, Grace also oversaw the building of two palaces – one of which was cost roughly £20 million, and spent £3 million of state funds on her daughter Bona’s wedding in 2014.
She won fans for being forthright and strong, especially among young and ambitious politicians, but her temper sometimes spilled over.
“I might have a small fist but when it comes to fighting I will put stones inside to enlarge it. Do not doubt my capabilities,” she once said.
She used those tiny fists to effect in 2009, when she ordered her bodyguard to punch photographer Richard Jones outside a luxury hotel in Hong Kong, where Bona was a university student. Mrs Mugabe then joined in, hitting him in the face with diamond-encrusted knuckles, causing cuts to Jones’s face. The Chinese government awarded her immunity, in part thanks to her status, and possibly in part thanks to theirs as Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner.
Eyebrows were first raised when Grace, not known for her academic skills, was awarded a doctorate by the University of Zimbabwe.
She went on to campaign against political rivals, even succeeding in sidelining some of them, including former Vice President Joice Mujuru and seven other government ministers.
Grace Mugabe made international headlines again in August, when it was alleged she had assaulted a 20-year-old model, Gabriella Engels, in Johannesburg. The model and her friends were in the company of Rob and Chatunga, Mrs Mugabe’s sons, when trouble started. Mrs Mugabe is said to have lost her temper, grabbed an extension cord attached to a plug, and beaten Engels with it.
Engels posted a picture of a deep cut on social media; Grace never arrived at her court hearing before receiving immunity again; and as for her sons – who, incidentally, have inherited their mother’s spending habits – they made light of the whole thing on social media.
The rise of Grace Mugabe
Robert Mugabe began wooing Grace Marufu while she was working as a young typist in the country’s state house. The two began an affair while he was married to his terminally ill first wife, Sally.
“He came to me and started asking about my family,” she said in a rare interview about their first encounter in the late 1980s. I looked at him as a father figure. I did not think he would at all look at me and say: ‘I like that girl.’ I least expected that.”
Mr Mugabe has said Sally did give her consent to the union before she died in 1992 – though he did not marry Grace until four years later. The couple have three children: Bona, Robert and Chatunga. Occasionally referred to as “Gucci Grace”, Mrs Mugabe has been criticised by some for an alleged appetite for extravagant shopping.
The former first family has vast properties, businesses and farms dotted around the country, mainly in the rich western and northern Mashonaland provinces. Over the years, Mrs Mugabe has attempted to grow herself into a powerful businesswoman and sees herself as a philanthropist, founding an orphanage on a farm just outside the capital, Harare, with the help of Chinese funding. She controversially earned a PhD in sociology from the University of Zimbabwe in just two months in 2014, although her thesis, unlike those of other students, was never filed and has never been made available.
Nevertheless, her doctorate title was used on campaign material as she prepared to take over the leadership of the Zanu-PF women’s wing. Since becoming more active in politics, she has become known for her sharp tongue and tough reputation. Pulling no punches while attacking political opponents, Mrs Mugabe often fiercely defends her husband. She has been accused of washing the ruling party’s dirty linen in public by calling on people to resign or apologise.
Political opponents had warned against a dynasty taking shape, and Mrs Mugabe was criticised for seeking to use her diplomatic immunity when accused of assaulting a 20-year-old South African model with an electrical plug. This was not the first time she had been accused of physical assault. Along with her husband, Mrs Mugabe is subject to EU and US sanctions, including travel bans, imposed over the seizure of land and accusations of rigged elections and crackdowns on political opposition.
Mugabe insisted her husband would never cease being leader of Zimbabwe. She declared that “we are going to create a special wheelchair for President Mugabe until he rules to 100 years, because that’s what we want”.
When the possibility of his eventual death was mooted, she had a plan for that, too.
“If God decides to take him,” she said, “then we would rather field him as a corpse.”
All the while, her own creep towards the seat of power was very much on. With her degree adding an air of gravitas, in 2014 she began to appear at campaign events all over the country, and took over leadership of the women’s wing of her husband’s ruling party, Zanu-PF. She then spent years intermittently touring Zimbabwe’s provinces, making speeches attacking her husband’s rivals, and shrewdly creating a kingmaker role for herself. Many people liked her rough style and passionate criticisms of the president’s opponents.
To those opponents and the army, however, it became clear that whoever would eventually take his place would need to get through her first. And when she replaced Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week, it proved the final straw. Mrs Mugabe may now be on the run, but don’t expect her to go quietly.
Joice Mujuru Removal
Mrs Mugabe spearheaded the ousting of a former ally, then-Vice-President Joice Mujuru, in 2014. She said the vice-president should be sacked from government because she was “corrupt, an extortionist, incompetent, a gossiper, a liar and ungrateful”, and accused her of collaborating with opposition forces and white people to undermine the country’s post-independence gains.
A few months later, Mrs Mujuru was expelled from Zanu-PF. She remains a leader of the opposition National People’s Party (NPP) and is spearheading a People’s Rainbow Coalition (PRC), where she urged people to register to vote to prevent the perpetual rule of Mr Mugabe and his wife.
The new vice-president was Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former justice minister who Mrs Mugabe had called “loyal and disciplined”. But by 2017, Mrs Mugabe was publicly calling on her husband to remove Mr Mnangagwa. She suggested that his supporters were planning a coup. When he fell ill at a rally and had to be airlifted out of the country for treatment, his supporters blamed poison administered through ice cream from Mrs Mugabe’s dairy farm, a suggestion she denied. He later said he had been poisoned, but it was “false and malicious” to suggest it was at the hands of the former first lady.
The former president accused him of disloyalty and sacked in early November 2017, but the subsequent chain of events undermined both the former president and former first lady. Members of the military seized state TV and put Mr Mugabe under house arrest. Mr Mnangagwa was appointed leader of Zanu-PF on 19 November. Mrs Mugabe is four decades younger than her 93-year-old husband, once the world’s oldest ruler, who governed Zimbabwe from the end of white-minority rule in 1980 till his resignation was announced in November 2017.
‘Am I not a Zimbabwean?’
Mrs Mugabe has always been a staunch supporter of her husband. She memorably said that he could even win votes as a corpse. She didn’t deny wanting to take the helm of the country, and at a 2014 rally she said:
“They say I want to be president. Why not? Am I not a Zimbabwean?”
Grace Mugabe Education
University of Zimbabwe (2014–2014), University of London, Renmin University of China.
Robert Mugabe, Grace Mugabe Marriage
Grace Ntombizodwa Mugabe, who was 41 years younger than her husband, and Mugabe began an affair in 1987, while both parties were married to other people, with Grace being married at the time to Air Force of Zimbabwe officer Stanley Goreraza. Mugabe and Grace wedded in 1996 and together they had a daughter, Bona, 29, and two sons – Robert Peter Mugabe Jr, whose age is unknown, and Chatunga Bellarmine Mugabe, 22.
Death of Robert Mugabe
Grace Mugabe was by her husband’s side when he died in Singapore. Grace Mugabe doesn’t share the complex legacy of her husband. She’s unpopular in many corners, and now that her husband is dead, her assets and future in the country could even be at risk.
It’s a dramatic turnaround for Zimbabwe’s former first lady, whose ambition to take her husband’s job was cut short in 2017 during an apparent coup that she was the catalyst for.
Grace Mugabe Family
- Grace Mugabe Husband: Robert Mugabe (m. 1996), Stanley Goreraza (m. 1983–1996)
- Grace Mugabe Siblings: Junior Shuvai Gumbochuma, Sam Marufu, Reward Marufu
Grace Ntombizodwa Mugabe Biography and Profile