Manthorpe on Gucci Grace, Zimbabwe’s “most reviled and hated woman”

Robert and Grace Mugabe. Photo by Dandjk Roberts via Wikipedia, Creative Commons
Robert and Grace Mugabe. Photo by Dandjk Roberts via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

In 1996, the year Robert Mugabe married Grace Goreraza, life for the majority of Zimbabweans was probably the best it ever had been, or was to be since, writes International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe. Many give credit for country’s good times to Mugabe’s late wife Sally. Since then, the country has been in free fall. “Grace has a lust for power and wealth almost beyond the country’s power to provide for her passions. Grace has become the most reviled and hated woman in Zimbabwe,” he writes. Excerpt of Manthorpe’s new column,  The Rise of “Gucci Grace,” Zimbabwe’s “First Shopper”:

Sally Mugabe was much loved in Zimbabwe and many believed, with some justice, that it was only her steadying hand that stopped her husband, President Robert Mugabe, from becoming the feral tyrant that emerged after her death.

In the months before her death in January, 1992, it was widely known in Harare that she would soon be taken by the liver disease from which she had suffered for several years. It was also known that the President had not waited to become a widower before seeking comfort elsewhere. At least three years before Sally’s death Mugabe had taken one of his secretaries, Grace Goreraza, as his mistress. More than that, he had two children by Grace. A daughter, Bona, named for the President’s Mother, was born around 1989, and a boy, Robert Jr, was born a few months after Sally died.

The story circulating in Zimbabwe at the time, and widely believed, illustrates the esteem in which Sally Mugabe was held, but it also attempted to save Robert Mugabe’s reputation. Sally Hayfron was a Ghanaian studying at a teacher’s college in what was then Southern Rhodesia where she met Robert Mugabe. They married in 1961 and the couple had a son, Michael, in 1963. But Sally and Robert were both deeply involved in the fight against the white minority government in Rhodesia. They lived lives on the run or in detention or prison. The boy developed a severe case of malaria and died in 1966.

Sally Mugabe was unable to have more children. So, as her death approached in the early 1990s, the story around Harare was that Sally had not been deceived or jilted by her husband. … log in to read  The Rise of “Gucci Grace,” Zimbabwe’s “First Shopper” (paywall*)

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