The race to succeed Zimbabwe‘s 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe has taken a peculiar turn after his wife, Grace Mugabe, reportedly offered to field her husband’s corpse as an election candidate to demonstrate Zimbabweans’ affection for him.
Since 2014, when she became politically active having been endorsed as head of the ruling Zanu-PF party’s women’s league, Mrs Mugabe has been in the middle of an increasingly vitriolic fight for power in a post-Mugabe era.
The battle to succeed the nonagenarian may be decades in the making, but its outcome is far from settled. The situation is further complicated by the incumbent’s refusal to publicly identify a favoured replacement, instead opting to hang on to power indefinitely, and keep his potential successors guessing.
Giving a speech at a campaign rally, where she was described as witnesses as appearing to be in trance, the First Lady – known as Amai, the polite Shona term for mother – continued positioning herself as potential successor as leader.
Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party has confirmed Mugabe as its candidate for the 2018 elections, but Mrs Mugabe said he husband may be dead in 2018.
Mrs Mugabe added that the party would “field his corpse as a candidate for elections to prove that people love him”, according to a Zimbabwean media organisation present a the rally in Murambinda Buhera Central Constituency.
Mrs Mugabe’s position as head of Zanu-PF party’s women’s league has allowed her to sit on the party’s powerful politburo, where she has enjoyed the support of senior party members from one of two groups fighting to control Zanu-PF – the G40 group and Team Lacoste.
Her main allies within the G40 – a younger faction not ideologically different to Team Lacoste – include the second vice president Phelekezela Mphoko, empowerment minister Patrick Zhuwao and local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere.
Having been reported as behind the ousting of Mugabe’s former vice-president and once strong ally, Joice Mujuru, who was considered a leading contender to succeed him, Mrs Mugabe has repeatedly attacked the current vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Known for her rhetoric – often referred to as “Amazing Grace”, the First Lady publicly accused Mnangagwa and his party allies of Team Lacoste of trying to topple her husband.