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Grace Mugabe could face a criminal conviction after Robert’s death

With Robert Mugabe passing away on Friday, all the talk centred around the 95-year-old’s despotic legacy. One man’s freedom fighter is another’s tyrant, after all. But there is another divisive subject that hasn’t been discussed at length – and that’s the curious case of Grace Mugabe.

What happens next for Grace Mugabe?

Bob’s long-term wife has been a loyal partner to the man who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years. The pair have had children together and formed a formidable political force during the final years of the Mugabe presidency. But if Robert is seen as polarising, then “Gucci Grace” could only hope for such a glowing review.

The recently-deceased former leader at least enjoys the warm nostalgia of his liberation fight, but Grace Mugabe doesn’t have the same past to fall back on. She is inextricably linked to the madness of her husband, and his decline in the 21st century. Quite simply, the ex-first lady isn’t very popular in Zimbabwe.

Why Grace Mugabe isn’t popular in Zimbabwe

When Robert Mugabe was booted out of office through a military coup in 2017, the generals and officials behind the transition were keen to stress that they weren’t targeting the main man – but the regime and influences that surrounded him. And yes, this did include the path being weaved by Grace.

The Zimbabwean Defence Force made it clear that they were worried about Mrs Mugabe’s “growing influence” on the state, and were left spooked by claims that she wanted to replace Robert after his death. The army was left with no choice but to act swiftly – and there may be some unfinished business to attend.

How much is Grace Mugabe worth?

Since that bloodless transition, Grace Mugabe has been slapped with an arrest warrant in South Africa and her supposed doctorate from the University of Zimbabwe has been labelled “a fraud”. She has not enjoyed the same luxuries as she did while trying to harness the power of her partner – and it could be bad news for her remaining assets.

Tentative estimates suggest that Grace has “at least $100 million” in the bank, procured from state funds. Others have suggested that the total tops $1 billion. She is in possession of farmland, properties and luxury items that were stuck on the taxpayers’ tab.

Estimated assets

In 2017, former finance minister and leader of the opposition People’s Democratic Party Tendai Biti suggested that the pair must be investigated for the riches they’ve accumulated:

“They are definitely worth more than $100m, I’ve no doubt about it. They have accounts in South Africa, China, Dubai, Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. Mugabe has 15 farms and Grace took over the whole of Mazowe [in Mashonaland], even the dam. What haven’t they taken?”

Tendai Biti

Is the writing on the wall?

Meanwhile, current President Emmerson Mnangagwa has initiated an anti-corruption commission that has seen several former Mugabe loyalists face investigations. Without her husband’s reputation left to shield her, it is plausible that Grace Mugabe would be the target of a probe in the future.

Her spending habits landed the controversial figure with the nickname “Gucci Grace”. Certainly, she and her husband continued their lavish spending while receiving treatment in Singapore. It’s estimated that a one-night stay in the five-star Gleneagles Hospital would cost around R80 000. The pair have spent months at the facility in 2019, and have regularly attended over the past eight years.

This could be yet another expense that Grace Mugabe is left to account for. It could, in laymens terms, also prove to be a stitch-up: Robert Mugabe successfully dodged any accountability for state-sponsored killings and the ultimate destruction of the Zimbabwean economy. Rightly or wrongly, Mrs Mugabe may be punished for the sins of her husband, too.

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