Former Zimbabwe first lady Grace Mugabe. Picture: REUTERS/PHILIMON BULAWAYO
Former Zimbabwe first lady Grace Mugabe. Picture: REUTERS/PHILIMON BULAWAYO

Harare — Former Zimbabwe first lady Grace Mugabe did not want former president Robert’s long-time spokesperson George Charamba to be part of negotiations held last year to persuade the 93-year-old to stand down.

Charamba made the revelations in a wide-ranging interview with a local radio station on Thursday night in which he described the soured relations between himself and Grace, saying she had angrily asked why he had been a part of the discussions and wanted him kicked out.

Looking in hindsight at Grace’s rise to power, Charamba said: "We were slow in realising that she was not well-served when she became a substantive office holder in the party, we should have offered our services to her instead of pulling back."

Grace ascended to the helm of the Zanu-PF Women’s League in 2014. On the day that Robert resigned, Charamba said she had given him a packet of rice and said: "Go and cook for the children, I know you are a single parent."

In May last year, Charamba lost his wife, Olivia, who succumbed to liver complications. However, the Mugabes did not attend the funeral or wake — raising eyebrows from the public over their relationship with Charamba.

At one of the so-called youth interface rallies, which Grace used as a platform to embarrass top party and government officials, she publicly humiliated Charamba. An angry Grace, at the time, had wanted to know why her philanthropic work in Mazowe was not getting any coverage in state media — and accused Charamba of not helping her cause and of devoting acres of space to the coverage of then vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Grace owns an orphanage in Mazowe and also runs an elite school in the same area. In the radio interview, Charamba also hinted at possible retirement this year to "focus on his family, farming and lecturing". He said "elections would take place much sooner than most people ever expected".

On Thursday, Jonathan Moyo, the former higher education and tertiary minister, claimed that Mnangagwa wanted to postpone elections by three years.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Mnangagwa left Harare to pay a courtesy call to his counterpart, João Lourenço, the Angolan President, in Luanda. The Zimbabwean leader is expected to update Lourenço, the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) chairperson of the Organ Troika on politics, security and defence, on the developments in the country since he took over as head of state.

Later this month, Mnangagwa will also attend the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where he is expected to engage with investors and state Zimbabwe’s investment case. The country is in dire need of investment inflows, after years of isolation and Robery Mugabe’s ruinous economic policies.

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