President Robert Mugabe's wife, Grace, has warned Zimbabweans that they will miss her husband when he is gone. "It will come a day that Mugabe will not be there and people will regret, missing his leadership," Grace said Thursday while addressing supporters at the president's Zvimba home district.
Mugabe turned 91 this year and many have speculated that he is not in the best state of both physical and mental health. But the country's ruling party, ZANU-PF seems unready to contemplate life without him and has already nominated Mugabe as its candidate for the next election in 2018, when he will be aged 94.
On Thursday Grace explained why she believed her husband was indispensable. "Not many people are able to make the sacrifices he does. He (Mugabe) puts his all to represent his people; he is someone who wants the best for the present and future generations," she said.
Mugabe has run Zimbabwe since the advent of black majority rule in 1980. Critics say he has destroyed what was, at independence, one of Africa's most promising economies. They cite, among other policy missteps, his violent and chaotic land reforms which crippled the key agricultural sector, subsequently laying to waste the country's agro-based economy.
Zimbabwe has been in the grip of a debilitating economic crisis for 15 years with unemployment now independently estimated at more than 80 percent, but Mugabe remains upbeat and this week revealed a 10-point plan which he claimed would force a rebound. The opposition says work to address the economic crisis has been undermined by fights within the ruling ZANU-PF party over Mugabe's succession.
Grace, now head of the ruling party's Women's League, is thought to be either keen to takeover – which she denies - or, at least, interested in determining the eventual successor in order to protect her family and vast business interests. However, liberation war credentials are seen as an absolute requirement for the top job by sections of the ruling party and its surrogate structures with non-veterans derisively dismissed as mafikizolos (late comers) when they aspire to higher office in Zanu PF.
But Grace told supporters Thursday that although she played no role in the struggle, she deserved to be in the ruling party. ZANU-PF, she declared, was not only for those who fought in the 1970s independence war. "I am also allowed to participate in ZANU-PF because it is my party.
While we respect their liberation war contributions, ZANU-PF is not only for those who fought the war, we all deserve to be in Zanu PF," she said. Grace also appeared to suggest that she should not be condemned for her husband's commissions, urging the media to be fair when criticising her.
"I err and accept criticism, but it has to be productive criticism. I am not saying (the media should) write positively about me, but do not just write negatively or criticise me simply because you do not like my husband. I am trying my best as a woman and doing tangible things," she said.