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Zimbabwe's First Lady to Lead Women's Wing of Ruling Party

FILE - Grace Mugabe, Zimbabwe's first lady, addresses a rally in Chinhoyi, about 120 kilometers west of Harare, Oct. 2, 2014.

Zimbabwe's ruling party has confirmed first lady Grace Mugabe as the new head of its women's wing, a sign of her increasing political influence in the southern African country.

The ZANU-PF party appointed Mugabe to her new post Saturday during the party's annual conference, attended by thousands of supporters in Harare. The new position also gives her a seat on the ruling party's top decision-making committee, the Politburo.

Earlier this year, Grace Mugabe launched a campaign against Vice President Joice Mujuru. The campaign intensified this week when President Robert Mugabe accused Mujuru of plotting with U.S. diplomats to remove him from office.

Once seen as a likely successor to the 90-year-old Mugabe, Mujuru has been removed as party vice president, although for now she retains her position as vice president of the nation.

Robert Mugabe this week was re-elected to another five-year term as party leader. ZANU-PF members also authorized him to choose the party's vice president and other top posts.

The president, still hailed by many Zimbabweans as a liberation hero, has ruled Zimbabwe since the country won independence from Britain in 1980. He remains subject to travel and financial sanctions by the U.S., Britain and other Western countries that accuse him of rigging elections and ruining Zimbabwe's economy with his policies, especially the forcible transfer of white-owned commercial farmland to blacks.

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