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Gucci Grace: Who is Zimbabwe’s first lady?

Zimbabwe's army says President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace have been taken into custody amid speculation of a "bloodless" coup.

As conflicting reports suggest Mrs Mugabe has fled the country, Sky News takes a look at the first lady referred to as a "mad woman" and "Gucci Grace" by critics.

:: Background

Image:Mrs Mugabe, wearing a shirt bearing her husband's face, at a ZANU-PF youth rally

Born in South Africa in 1965, Grace Mugabe married an air force pilot and had one son.

In the early 1990s, she secured a job in Mr Mugabe's typing pool and started a relationship with the President while he was still married to his first wife Sally.

The couple tied the knot in what local press called the "wedding of the century" in 1996.

The Mugabes – who are 41 years apart – have two sons and a daughter together.

: Extravagant spending

Mrs Mugabe has made no secret of her desire to succeed her husband
Image:Mrs Mugabe has made no secret of her desire to succeed her husband

Mrs Mugabe 's extravagant spending has earned her the nickname of "Gucci Grace" and "First Shopper", and raised eyebrows across impoverished Zimbabwe.

Known for her expensive tastes, the first lady was reported to have splashed out £75,000 during a trip to Paris in 2002.

She is also said to have spent millions on properties in South Africa, including £4m on a mansion in an exclusive suburb of Johannesburg.

Adverts for the four bedroom home said it had "rolling lawns, a summer house, koi pond and six reception rooms".

:: Analysis: No way back for weakened Robert Mugabe
:: Mugabe: The war hero who became a dictator

Mrs Mugabe's first son, Russell Goreraza, has also been criticised for his high spending.

Last month, he imported two Rolls Royce limousines into Harare and was said to be expecting the delivery of an Aston Martin.

The combined value of the vehicles was £4m, Zimbabwean media reported.

:: The President's rock

President Robert Mugabe's wife Grace Mubage and sacked vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa
Image:Mrs Mubage has repeatedly clashed with ousted vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa

Grace Mugabe has been her husband's biggest supporter and insists he can continue to rule for years to come.

In February, she even suggested the President could run "as a corpse" if he died before next year's election.

While Mrs Mugabe has portrayed herself as a fiercely loyal subject, she has also asserted her credentials to succeed the President.

At a rally in 2014, she said: "They say I want to be president. Why not? Am I not a Zimbabwean?"

Meanwhile, last year she reportedly told the women's league of ruling party ZANU-PF that she was already the president.

:: Rise to prominence

  • Robert Mugabe at the World Economic Forum in DurbanRobert Mugabe at the World Economic Forum in Durban

    Robert Mugabe

    In power since 1980, Mr Mugabe is the only leader Zimbabwe has known in 37 years of independence.

    Despite concerns over his health, Mr Mugabe, 93, says he intends to run again in elections next year.

    The world's oldest head of state sparked a political crisis on 6 November by sacking vice president and likely successor Emmerson Mnangagwa.

  • President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace attend a rally in ChinhoyiPresident Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace attend a rally in Chinhoyi

    Grace Mugabe

    Zimbabwe's first lady married Robert Mugabe, 41 years her senior, in 1996.

    The 52-year-old has since become a very powerful figure and repeatedly asserted her credentials to succeed the president.

    Mrs Mugabe has repeatedly clashed with Emmerson Mnangagwa, who she is expected to succeed as vice president of the ruling ZANU-PF party.

  • Emmerson Mnangagwa Emmerson Mnangagwa

    Emmerson Mnangagwa

    The 75-year-old former intelligence chief was sacked amid claims he plotted against the government and showed traits of "disloyalty, disrespect and deceitfulness".

    After his dismissal, Mr Mnangagwa fled to South Africa and called on ZANU-PF members to desert the President.

    Mr Mnangagwa, whose nickname is the Crocodile, told Mr Mugabe the party was "not personal property for you and your wife to do as you please".

  • Constantine ChiwengaConstantine Chiwenga

    General Constantino Chiwenga

    The commander of Zimbabwe's defence forces is seen as an ally of Mr Mnangagwa and has demanded an end to a purge in the ZANU-PF party.

    Hours before sending troops into Harare, General Chiwenga warned the military "will not hesitate to step in" to prevent "treacherous shenanigans".

    He has been accused of treason by Mr Mugabe.

  • Major General Moyo insisted President Mugabe was safe Major General Moyo insisted President Mugabe was safe

    Major General Sibusiso Moyo

    After troops seized control of the state broadcaster, Major General Sibusiso Moyo appeared on air to deny claims of a coup and assert the safety of Mr Mugabe and his family "is guaranteed".

    He added: "We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country, in order to bring them to justice."

  • Morgan Tsvangirai Morgan Tsvangirai

    Morgan Tsvangirai

    Zimbabwe's opposition leader came close to unseating Mr Mugabe in March 2002 and March 2008, but lost both elections amid claims of vote-rigging and intimidation.

    In 2009, the long-time critic of Mr Mugabe survived a car crash which killed his wife – a collision his party suggested was "not a genuine accident".

    Commenting on news of Mr Mnangagwa's dismissal, Mr Tsvangirai claimed the president is "determined to keep power by whatever means".

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The first lady is a prominent member of ZANU-PF's G40 faction – so named as many of its members are in their 40s and 50s and too young to have participated in Zimbabwe's independence war.

But while Mrs Mugabe is popular with young ZANU-PF members, many of the party's old guard distrust her intentions.

The first lady has been embroiled in a long-running feud with ousted vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who she is expected to replace at a party conference next month.

Last week, the head of Zimbabwe's war veterans' group described Mrs Mugabe as a "mad woman" who had come to power through a "coup…by marriage certificate".

:: Assault claims

South African model Gabriella Engels alleges Zimbabwe First Lady Grace Mugabe assaulted her
Image:Model Gabriella Engels claimed Mrs Mugabe assaulted her in a Johannesburg hotel room

In August, a South African model claimed she was attacked by Mrs Mugabe while she was visiting the first lady's sons, Chatunga and Robert Junior, in a Johannesburg hotel room.

Gabriella Engels, 20, said Mrs Mugabe's bodyguards stood and watched as the first lady hit her with an extension cord.

The model suffered cuts on her head and filed an assault charge against Mrs Mugabe, who was allowed to return to Zimbabwe after South Africa granted her diplomatic immunity.

Later, Mrs Mugabe painted herself as the victim of the incident and accused Ms Engels of being "intoxicated and unhinged" and attacking her with a knife.

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