President Robert Mugabe’s wife Thursday urged her 93-year-old husband to name his chosen successor, fuelling renewed speculation about the race to take over from the world’s oldest national leader.
Mugabe has always refused to publicly reveal his favoured heir, but 52-year-old Grace Mugabe — who is seen by some as a potential candidate — called for an end to the uncertainty.
“President, don’t be afraid. Tell us who is your choice, which horse we should back,” she told a meeting of the women’s league of the ruling ZANU-PF party.
“If you tell us the horse to back, we will rise in our numbers and openly support that horse. Why should our horse be concealed?” she said in a speech switching between English and local language Shona.
“I live with this elder. He has wisdom. He is not talkative but he knows what he wants,” she said, adding “Mark my words, his word will be final.”
Mugabe appears to be in increasingly fragile health, but has said he will stand in elections next year that could see him remain in power until aged nearly 100.
He has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from British colonial rule in 1980.
The succession race is seen as between Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and a group called “Generation 40” or “G40” because its members are generally younger, which reportedly has Grace’s backing.
Mugabe has repeatedly denounced indiscipline among party members who are bitterly divided over who should succeed him and whether he should retire.
Grace has previously denied harbouring ambitions to succeed her husband, but at other times has said she would be prepared to serve in any political position.
She has taken on a larger public role in recent years, speaking regularly at meetings and heading the ZANU-PF women’s league.
In 2014, she led a campaign to expel former vice-president Joice Mujuru who had been seen as a possible successor to Mugabe.
Mugabe returned two weeks ago from a trip to Singapore for medical treatment.