During a state banquet in Pretoria, South Africa, in April 2015, I had a brief encounter with Grace Mugabe, the first lady of Zimbabwe. I was asking her husband, Robert Mugabe, about the question of her succeeding him as president. “She doesn’t have those ambitions,” began Mugabe, the spectacles perched on his nose reminiscent of an elderly librarian, a narrow moustache clinging to his upper lip like a caterpillar. Suddenly he interrupted himself with mock alarm: “Careful, there she comes!” The frail 91-year-old, who increasingly resembles a hanger for his well-tailored suits, remained seated. I rose and turned to behold his 49-year-old wife, with her cropped hair and long black dress, lace hanging daintily at the wrist. Grace, who had been the subject of persistent gossip about a serious illness, was returning from an interlude on the dancefloor that delighted dinner guests. “Hello, David Smith of the Guardian. We were just talking about you.” “Oh, really? You were talking about me? But I’m dead, I’m a corpse,” she replied smiling. The reports about her ill-health had apparently been exaggerated. “I just wanted to ask you if it’s true you might like to be president one day,” I asked. Her hard… Read full this story
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