HARARE - Zimbabwe’s first lady, Grace Mugabe, has publicly called on the country’s vice president to resign, accusing her of corruption and incompetence. The first lady also has suggested for the first time that she may want to become president, following in the footsteps of her 90-year-old husband, Robert Mugabe.
At a meeting with the leaders of Zimbabwe’s war veterans' organization on Thursday, First Lady Grace Mugabe hinted for the first time that she wants to succeed her husband, who has been in power for the last 34 years.
“They say I want to be a president -- Why not, am I not Zimbabwean? Ok, so it is only you who have the right to be Zimbabwe’s leader? Today we now say go and rest, so that those who are capable can take over," she said. "There are plenty of people who can run this country, not Mujuru. We cannot go back to where we were before independence. Mrs. Mujuru must resign."
Mujuru is Joice Mujuru, Zimbabwe’s vice president, as well as the leader of an informal faction in the ruling ZANU-PF party. Both she and Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa are said to be angling to take over from President Mugabe. The 90-year-old is the only leader independent Zimbabwe has ever known.
If he were to die in office, the constitution stipulates that Mujuru would take over as the country's leader.
With her comments Thursday, Grace Mugabe made clear she doesn't want that to happen. She also urged Zimbabweans to respect Mnangagwa, saying he was more popular than Mujuru.
President Mugabe married his South African-born wife in 1996, when he was 72 and she was 31.
Until her 49th birthday in July, most Zimbabweans looked at Grace Mugabe as a mere first lady like her predecessor, the late Ghanaian Sally Mugabe.
Since then she has entered into politics and is campaigning to lead the women’s league of ZANU-PF come December, when the party leadership meets for a congress.
As for the presidency, Zimbabwe held elections just last year, and President Mugabe has shown no sign of stepping down. Despite reports of declining health, the president by all accounts remains active in running the country's affairs.