HARARE – First Lady Grace Mugabe has won the Daily News’ Newsmaker of The Year award for 2014 — hands down.
A team of senior editorial managers at Zimbabwe’s leading daily newspaper that sat to choose the winner earlier this week overwhelmingly settled on the newly-installed Zanu PF secretary for women’s affairs for the award.
She beat an impressive cast of other worthy contenders for the title — dominated by current and former Zanu PF luminaries — that included her nonagenarian husband President Robert Mugabe, former Vice President Joice Mujuru, former party spokesman Rugare Gumbo and deposed war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda.
The Daily News team, led by Group Editor Stanley Gama, adjudged Mujuru to be a distant runner-up to Grace, while Sibanda took the consolation prize for the Quote of the Year.
For winning the 2014 Newsmaker of The Year award, the First Lady gets a free subscription for a year to all the titles of Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) — publishers of the inimitable Daily News, the Daily News on Sunday and the Weekend Post.
“Love her or hate her, as many people seem to do in their wisdom, no one can accuse the First Lady of not having shaken Zanu PF and Zimbabwe to its core in the past few months.
“While news hounds can sometimes be prone to hyperbole, it surely is an understatement of the year to say that she arrived on the political scene with a thunderous bang and that, as a result, Zanu PF and Zimbabwe will never be the same again.
“Thanks to her, both the power matrices and the rules of political etiquette within and outside Zanu PF have completely changed, and many once flourishing political and business careers lie in ruins in the short few weeks that she has been in formal politics,” Gama said.
“Simply put, no other Zimbabwean has said and generated as much riveting news as the First Lady, or impacted on the country’s body politic in 2014 as Mrs Mugabe has done, and our own circulation and readership figures at the Daily News over the past four months bear this incontrovertible truth out!
“This, of course, is not to say that her unparalleled news-making abilities have been without controversy,” Gama added.
The team also felt that she has had a stunning penchant for saying things that are rather off-key and being in the news for the wrong reasons, including a very fertile imagination that saw her shamelessly manufacture the patent lie that Mujuru had a 10 percent shareholding in the country’s leading daily newspaper, the Daily News.
Although Mujuru was ultimately vanquished by the combined forces of Grace and supporters of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, she also proved to be a substantial news generator, and in fact continues to do so even in her darkest hour — as evidenced by the fatal fascination that lickspittle State media have with her. As for Sibanda, the quote that is widely attributed to him when he allegedly said, “I am not going to allow any coup both in the boardroom and in the bedroom” at the height of the anarchy devouring Zanu PF was the runaway Quote of the Year.
So biting and resonant with ordinary Zimbabweans was that quote that it ultimately contributed to authorities dragging the popular war veteran to court where he faces charges of insulting or undermining the authority of President Mugabe.
While Grace is bootlicked, sometimes embarrassingly by Zanu-PF bigwigs, she has struggled to find favour with ordinary Zimbabweans.
Many critics of the First Lady derisively refer to her as “Gucci Grace” or “First Shopper” or lately “Hurricane Grace”.
A significant number of Zanu PF bigwigs also suspect that her dramatic entry into formal politics is a first step in her ultimate ambition to allegedly grab the leadership of both the ruling party and the country, and thereby become Zimbabwe’s first woman leader.
After her “surprise” nomination as head of Zanu PF’s Women’s League in August, Grace immediately fronted a ferocious party campaign against Mujuru, that accused the popular widow of untested allegations of corruption and plotting to topple and assassinate Mugabe.
Born on July 23, 1965, in South Africa, Grace (nee Marufu) became Mugabe’s mistress while working as a secretary in his office in the early 1990s. Both were married at the time, although the nonagenarian’s first wife, Sally Hayfron (from Ghana) was ailing and on her deathbed. The couple wed in 1996 after Sally died and Grace’s former husband, an air force officer, Goreraza, was posted to China. She has three children with Mugabe, 41 years her senior, and a son from her previous marriage with Goreraza.
As First Lady, Grace initially shied away from the public spotlight, while her alleged taste for the good life and love for shopping abroad earned her the sobriquets “Gucci Grace” and “First Shopper”.
In 2009, she punched a British photographer in Hong Kong for taking pictures of her at a luxury hotel. But she told a South African Broadcasting Corporation programme last year that she was no longer concerned about what people think of her.
It was also announced a few months ago that Grace had been awarded a controversial doctorate by the University of Zimbabwe, where her husband is chancellor, reportedly after enrolling for a Masters degree.
In addition, a road was named after her at the Harare venue of
Zanu PF’s damp squib “elective” congress earlier this month.