DESPITE vigorous denials at the time – which even resulted in journalists at The Financial Gazette being charged and incarcerated for criminal defamation for reporting the fact – it has now been confirmed that the late former president Robert Mugabe married Grace in 1992 and not in 1996, the Daily News on Sunday can reveal.
Close family members corroborated this yesterday – in the wake of the recent death of the nonagenarian – revealing further that Mugabe used his nephew Leo to cover up the marriage at the time, after his first wife Sally had died earlier in the year after battling a serious kidney ailment.
After the 1992 traditional marriage, Mugabe later had a white wedding with Grace on August 17, 1996 – about four-and-a-half years after Sally died. The much-loved Ghanaian was interred at the National Heroes Acre in Harare.
These revelations come as damaging details are also emerging that Mugabe and Grace had experienced serious marital problems – amid allegations of infidelity, and with former vice president Joice Mujuru apparently intervening on numerous occasions to save the marriage.
Mugabe died on September 6 at a top-notch Singaporean hospital, and was buried at his Zvimba homestead in Mashonaland West on September 29 – at the insistence of Grace and in opposition to the wishes of the larger Mugabe family and traditional chiefs that he be interred at the National Heroes Acre.
Controversially, Grace chased away close family members on the day of Mugabe’s burial in a tamper-proof coffin, while also barring mourners from viewing the body, which raised eyebrows and suspicions at the funeral.
The close family members who spoke to the Daily News On Sunday confirmed that Mugabe had used Leo as a smoke screen to marry Grace towards the end of 1992, after the ex-president had carried out an adulterous relationship with her for years while Sally was battling illness – which resulted in the birth of Bona in 1988.
The family members also confirmed that Grace initially conducted her relationship with Mugabe while she was still married to a soldier, Stanley Goreraza – with the two only divorcing officially in the mid-1990s, after Mugabe had already paid lobola to her family.
“An impression was created that Leo had married Grace for himself … but Sally was not fooled and confronted Leo about this,” one of the relatives said.
Leo is the son of Mugabe’s late sister Sabina, a national heroine who is also buried at the Heroes Acre.
Presented with the irrefutable evidence, a coy Leo confirmed that he had played a key role, along with his late brother Innocent, in paying lobola to Grace’s family – the Marufus.
“The story is that I was sent by sekuru (Mugabe) to go and marry Grace in Chivhu. Indeed, most people believed I had married Grace for myself. I was sent by sekuru to marry her.
“I was accompanied by my late brother Innocent. Sekuru told me to use my cattle to pay the lobola, with the promise that he would replace them.
“Later, sekuru declined to replace my cattle, arguing that my father had not paid lobola fully when he married our mother. Still, I was happy for sekuru when he married Mbuya Grace, as he wanted children,” Leo said.
Mugabe, who was a strict Catholic, admitted years later that he had had an adulterous relationship with Grace – claiming that Sally, who could not bear him children because of health complications, had allegedly approved of the affair.
Speaking to stunned mourners during the funeral of his mother-in-law in September last year, Mugabe confessed: “Yes, we got involved when Sally was still alive. I had to”.
“Grace and I never dated. I was just introduced to her and I said to myself she is a beautiful girl. So she came as a secretary and there were many of them.
“I just looked at them and then it was love at first sight with Grace. Then I said to her one day ‘I love you’ and she didn’t respond.
“I then grabbed her hand and I kissed her. She didn’t protest or refuse, and then I said to myself now that she has accepted to be kissed, it means she loves me,” Mugabe said then.
Talking further about Grace, some of Mugabe’s relatives said they had crossed paths with her many times because of the manner in which she used to treat them and the former president.
“Our problems with her started over stories of abuse … she was said to be abusing him (Mugabe). When the family tried to intervene, that is when relations turned sour,” one of the family members said.
Over the years, another relative said, reports of infidelity started to emerge – with Mugabe, at one point, allegedly pushing to divorce Grace.
“There were marital problems that emanated from infidelity. At some stages, Mai Mujuru had to intervene to stop the collapse of the marriage,” the close relative said.
“A few years later, Mugabe used this wise counsel from Mai Mujuru to stop the marriage between an army general and his wife from breaking up.
“It was public information within the security circles that it was not all roses in the late president’s marriage,” the relative added.