HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) – Zimbabwe’s first lady stepped up her entry into politics by speaking at a rally where she criticised members of the ruling party who want President Robert Mugabe to step down from power but are “cowards” too afraid to openly declare their views.
“There are senior people who pretend to support President Mugabe and during daylight they even dance to songs praising him but during darkness they say he is too old and should go,” said Grace Mugabe, criticising what she called factionalism in the ruling Zanu-PF.
The first lady was speaking at her first rally since entering politics as leader of the party’s women’s wing in August.
Zimbabwe will never again have a president like the 90-year-old Mugabe, who has been in power since the country’s independence in 1980, she told hundreds of supporters gathered in the farming town of Chinhoyi, west of the capital Harare.
In her first rally to establish an independent political career, Grace Mugabe’s speech mimicked her husband’s well-used tactic of criticising the western powers.
Grace Mugabe, 49, is set to officially assume the presidency of the women’s wing at a congress in December. Critics have argued that the first lady’s move to politics was to ensure the ailing Mugabe maintained political and economic power.
Since marrying Mugabe in 1996, Grace Mugabe has not been active in politics but has acquired vast tracts of land under Zimbabwe’s land reform policy. The couple has three children.
Grace Mugabe also used the rally to defend her PhD from the University of Zimbabwe, saying she was focused on delivery rather than academic titles. The first lady has been criticised for receiving her degree only months after she enrolled.