Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party has confirmed President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace as the new head of its women’s wing at a congress.
Grace Mugabe’s appointment, approved to the cheers of 12,000 delegates in a parade ground in central Harare on Saturday, gives her a seat on the ruling party’s top decision-making politburo.
The development underlined her rapid political rise in the country.
Over the last three months, the 49-year-old first lady has carried out a campaign against Vice President Joice Mujuru, who until recently was a leading contender in a behind-the-scenes battle to eventually succeed the 90-year-old president.
#zanupfcongress Mugabe now praising his wife Grace, congratulations for being head of women's league. He gives her a kiss on the cheek
— harumutasa/aljazeera (@harumutasa) December 6, 2014
Mugabe, who has ruled the former British colony since independence in 1980, openly denounced Mujuru when he opened the congress on Thursday, accusing her of leading a group within the ruling party intent on ousting him from power.
Mugabe’s comments appeared to effectively elbow out Mujuru from the race to take over from him as both ZANU-PF’s and Zimbabwe’s leader, leaving a seemingly clear path for her rival Emmerson Mnangagwa, the justice minister.
The infighting within the ruling party has increased uncertainty in a country grappling with economic problems which critics blame on decades of mismanagement by Mugabe.
His controversial policies, including the forcible acquisition of white-owned commercial farms for blacks, have alienated Western donors who also accuse Mugabe of rigging elections since 2000 to stay in power.