Harare – Zimbabwe’s First Lady Grace Mugabe turned 50 on Thursday, and state media marked the occasion of her “golden jubilee” with a 14-page newspaper supplement full of gushing praise.
In a sign of just how influential the First Lady is becoming, the supplement rivalled the ones usually published on President Robert Mugabe’s birthday each February.
Full colour advertisements from struggling state-run firms and cash-strapped government ministries hailed her as a “mother of the nation” and praised her work as a philanthropist.
The Zimbabwe National Water Authority declared her to be “Our Saving Grace”. The firm, which is sometimes criticised for disconnecting entire municipalities for defaulting on payment, said: “Like water on parched ground, you give life to everything you touch.”
The build-up to Grace Mugabe’s birthday hasn’t been quite as intense as it is ahead of her 91-year-old husband’s birthday each February. Still, adverts have been regularly flighted on prime time state-run TV and radio, and a special song calling her an “African Queen” played on popular local station Power FM on Thursday.
A fund-raising dinner was being held on Saturday at the first Family’s private mansion in northern Harare. The money would go toward various charities that Grace Mugabe heads.
Unconfirmed reports said guests would each pay $2 000.
Grace Mugabe made a surprise entry into full-time politics a year ago, when she was chosen to lead the ruling ZANU-PF party’s powerful Women’s League. She was instrumental in ousting former vice president, Joice Mujuru, who she accused of plotting to topple her husband from power.