President Robert Mugabe’s daughter was seen on state TV accompanying her father on an official visit to Japan.
The move will intensify speculation the 91-year-old is trying to shore up his family’s hold on power, press reports and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change said.
Bona Mugabe, who married pilot Simba Chikore last year, was shown sitting next to her father and Zimbabwe’s Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi during discussions in Tokyo.
MDC spokesman Obert Gutu tweeted: “So is one Bona Mugabe-Chikore a member of Mugabe’s official delegation to Japan? Zimbabwe has gone to the dogs!”
There was spirited reaction on social media, with popular blogger @CynicHarare tweeting:
Said Zimbabwean journalist @nqabamatshazi: “Father is the owner of the country, mother controls the country, now it looks like daughter is the heir to the country.”
Analysts suggest the sudden rise of Mugabe’s wife Grace in Zimbabwe’s deeply-divided political arena may be part of a plan to ensure the “first family” retains its hold on power, after Mugabe retires or dies.
Grace is now head of the ruling ZANU-PF party’s powerful women’s league, and she has hinted she won’t be content with just that.
Bona, 24, is Mugabe’s first child with Grace, born while his first wife Sally was still alive. She graduated with a Masters degree in banking and finance in Singapore in 2013.
The state broadcaster is reporting that Japan has pledged US2.6 million (R32.4m) to help Zimbabwe’s disaster preparedness programmes.
Reports say Mugabe took an entourage of 100 on the trip with him.