Zimbabwe: Grace in Bid to Conceal Evidence On Corruption?

Former First Lady Grace Mugabe (file photo).
29 January 2018

Former First Lady, Grace Mugabe's most recent actions have betrayed signs of a besieged wife to ex-President Robert Mugabe who is all out to cover traces of corruption that could provide fuel to her envisaged prosecution by the country's new rulers.

Grace was in the news past two weeks for perceived attempts to spirit away three posh cars she imported for a fortune with strong beliefs she could have externalised scarce foreign currency.

The offence has dire consequences in Zimbabwe with a former Finance Minister Chris Kuruneri at one time serving time for it.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has issued an ultimatum on those who externalised foreign currency during Mugabe's rule to repatriate their loot or face the music.

Last week, and after nearly four years of a storm surrounding the authenticity of her PhD, University of Zimbabwe authorities finally published Grace's thesis.

While she had managed to ignore fierce demands for her "fake" PhD to be revoked, the decision to seek its publication at a time a probe has been muted around her possible academic fraud, is seen as a desperate attempt by the under fire former first lady to conceal any traces of corruption associated with her.

Mnangagwa, last week, told international media during an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos that his government has not granted Grace immunity from prosecution.

"No. We have not given anybody any immunity. What I promised to my former President and the founding father of our nation, President Mugabe, is that first we give him a package - a very lucrative package... " Mnangagwa said.

Meanwhile, his government has intensified its siege on Grace's G40 allies who are being pursued for acts of alleged corruption.

With signs this is a vengeance mission against Mnangagwa's former tormentors, it is almost apparent Grace could turn out as the most priced catch in the new President's much touted anti-corruption thrust.

Mnangagwa has been ruthless with Grace's G40 allies and has moved to freeze former cabinet ministers Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere's bank accounts in apparent attempts to financially cripple them and render them unable to bankroll any possible physical résistance to his rule.

When she still enjoyed her husband's protection, Grace led a protracted public humiliation of the then Vice President whom she continuously cast as a traitor.

Critics say Mnangagwa has strategically resisted the temptation to go after Grace almost immediately for fear of an electoral backlash from her husband's fanatical followers who are still at a loss on whether to embrace the new leader or throw spanners in the wake of his election bid.

It is also widely believed Mugabe's sudden death could leave his wife exposed to her enemies as the former leader's profile stopped the current administration from prosecuting him for many crimes as this could provoke pockets of unrest among the once powerful leader's remnants.

Arresting Grace now, it is also feared, would be an unnecessary sideshow to Mnangagwa's current efforts to lure much needed foreign investment into an economy battered by decades of poor management.

But the message of resentment towards Grace by Mnangagwa has already been sent to her through her being stripped of her security by the new administration.

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