Grace Mugabe, the widow of Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Mugabe, will keep the fortune accrued by her family during her husband’s 37 years in power, authorities said on Tuesday.
“President Emmerson Mnangagwa has assured the family that they will keep their wealth,” said Obert Mpofu, secretary for administration of the ruling party, Zanu-PF.
Analysts say Grace’s desire to protect the fortune was a factor in the tensions last week between the family and the government over where Mugabe he should be buried.
The government wanted the former strongman to be buried at the National Heroes Acre, a hilltop shrine reserved for the elite.
The family, however, said they wanted him buried in his rural hometown alongside his mother.
After days of back and forth, the burial was postponed to October to allow time to build a mausoleum at the National Heroes Acre and for traditional rituals to be carried out.
“Grace wanted Mnangagwa to give her assurance that the family wealth was going to be protected; she wanted immunity and security. When Mnangagwa assured her that, she was happy to let the body be buried at the National Heroes Acre,” political analyst Tinashe Muzamwindo said.
The Mugabes are one of the most affluent families in Zimbabwe, owning multiple properties, including a dairy farm, a private school and a game reserve, dpa reported.
However, Mugabe’s villa, known as the “Blue Roof”, in Harare’s elite suburb of Borrowdale Brooke, and another mansion where his daughter Bona lives, are in Zanu-PF’s name.
Mnangagwa, whose challenge to Grace Mugabe’s leadership ambitions in part led to her husband’s overthrow by the military in 2017, has on several occasions said that the family will be taken care of.
“The title deeds will soon be transferred into the family’s name,” Mpofu said.
Although Robert Mugabe presented himself as a socialist, his family secretly amassed vast wealth during his rule, and his wife, often dubbed “Gucci” Grace, was notorious for her lavish tastes and shopping sprees.
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The state-owned newspaper The Herald quoted agriculture minister Perrance Shiri as saying that the Mugabes owned about 14 farms (16,000 hectares) which were mainly taken from white farmers during his controversial land reform programme in the 2000s.
In 2015, the family violently evicted villagers and took land in the mineral-rich Mazowe area.
Police destroyed homesteads, furniture and the villagers’ crops during the evictions. The villagers have since been awarded compensation by a Zimbabwean court.
Last year, the deposed first lady was being investigated by the country’s anti-graft agency over the land she controversially acquired while in power, a doctorate degree the university says she didn’t deserve, and ivory smuggling.
dpa reported she has escaped prosecution so far.
When asked, family spokesman Leo Mugabe said it was too early to discuss issues such as wealth and property.
“We are still mourning, we haven’t buried our departed, we cannot discuss that,” he told dpa.
Robert Mugabe, who was both revered for his liberation politics and reviled for his later dictatorial rule in the southern African country, died on September 6, aged 95.