After a night of unrest in Zimbabwe that saw a military takeover of the state broadcaster, the country’s President Robert Mugabe is now said to be ‘in custody’, held by the army in his home following a ‘bloodless coup’.
Reports of his wife Grace ’s whereabouts are conflicting: some say she is with her husband under house arrest, others say she has fled to Namibia.
Mr Mugabe has been in power since Zimbabwe’s independence from white minority rule in 1980.
Yesterday’s action took place after the dictator fired his vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, apparently positioning the First Lady as a replacement.
This then led to speculation that she was being lined up to succeed her husband.
Robert Mugabe’s second wife Grace, four decades the junior of her husband, was born in South Africa. She met the dictator while working as his secretary in the 1980s.
He was married to his first wife Sally at the time and the pair began an affair. They married in 1996 in an extravagant ceremony and have three children.
She has since risen to become a high-ranking politician in the Zanu-PF party, heading its women’s league and vocally supporting her husband’s leadership.
Mrs Mugabe extravagant shopping habits have earned her the nickname ‘ Gucci Grace ’. In a country wracked by poverty, her lavish lifestyle has been fodder for her critics.
During one shopping trip to Paris in 2002 she is said to have spent £75,000.
During her marriage she has overseen the building of vast estates for the first family, mainly in the country’s wealthier areas.
She is also said to have paid £4 million for a lavish property in South Africa in an exclusive Johannesburg suburb.
A polarising figure, she is known for her sharp-tongued and sometimes ruthless approach to politics.
She has been a key figure in the ousting of a number of possible successors to Mugabe.
The oldest leader in the world at 92, Mr Mugabe’s health is rumoured to be deteriorating – making the issue of succession still more pertinent.
And his wife does not deny a desire for head office. In 2014 she told a rally: ‘They say I want to be president. Why not? Am I not a Zimbabwean?’
The possibility of a political dynasty taking form in Zimbabwe angered critics
Mrs Mugabe faced a barrage of criticism earlier this year after seeking to use her diplomatic immunity after she allegedly assaulted a model in South Africa.
She failed to hand herself in over the matter, instead Zimbabwe’s government stepped in to invoke ‘diplomatic immunity cover’.