Grace Mugabe’s whereabouts had been shrouded in mystery since the coup – from reports that she had fled to neighbouring Namibia, to claims she had been living with her husband.
But Grace was taken away not long after her husband’s generals wrested power from him. Since then, she has been held alone at detention facilities at military bases dotted around the country – torture centres created by her husband to enable his feared state security to ‘disappear’ people.
Grace, 52, who Mugabe married in 1996 after spotting her in a government typing pool while his first wife Sally had terminal cancer, is being moved every two days.
This is to ensure that rumours do not spread about where she is being held, preventing any Mugabe loyalists from trying to free her – as well as ensuring that there is no rallying point for any supporters.
‘She was a bad influence on Mugabe while he was in power, and was a bad influence on him when we tried to negotiate a deal with him to stand down,’ one military official told the Daily Mail last night. ‘She was taken away both to prevent them colluding and conspiring, and to isolate her husband further.’
The official added: ‘It’s best she is taken out of the picture and forgotten about for now – we will decide what to do with her later. She is a very rich lady and at some point we will want to find out all about how she made that money.’
Dubbed ‘Gucci’ Grace because of her lavish spending sprees while her countrymen starved, she has been removed from her post as head of the Zanu-PF Women’s League ‘forever’ and expelled from the party itself.
It is unclear whether Grace will also be prosecuted, and it is understood that Mugabe demanded guarantees over her safety in his negotiations with the military.
Reuters also reported that Mugabe is trying to guarantee the safety of his two sons with Grace, Chatunga and Robert Jr., who are currently living in South Africa.
On Sunday Chatunga posted a defiant status on Facebook hours before his father resigned. He wrote: You can’t fire a Revolutionary leader!
‘Zanu Pf is nothing without President Mugabe. Gushungo will always remain the champion of champions! Proud of you Gushungo Proud of Dad. Gushungo always and forever to death!’
Little is known about the whereabouts of Chatunga and Robert, who are notorious for posting videos of their lavish party-hard lifestyle on social media, but have been notably quiet since the takeover began.
Grace’s downfall began on November 3 at a rally in Bulawayo when she was booed, telling the crowd: ‘Go ahead, I don’t care, I am powerful.’
Two days later Mr Mnangagwa was sacked, accused of orchestrating the unrest, and four of his supporters were arrested.
He fled to South Africa and remained there for 10 days before returning at the head of a column of tanks in Harare, where he took power for himself.
Before being ousted, Grace was known as the First Lady Of Shopping, had splashed £3million on her daughter’s wedding, bought luxury homes around the world and recently paid £300,000 for a Rolls-Royce.
During one shopping spree in Paris in 2002, she managed to spend £120,000.
Grace, a former chicken seller, began an affair with Robert Mugabe while working as one of his typists and while his first wife, Sally, was terminally ill.
Mugabe’s marriage to Grace in 1996, dubbed the ‘Wedding of the Century’ in Zimbabwe, was an extravagant Catholic affair.
Each decade of the old dictator’s life was marked with ever more expensive partying — his 90th year being marked by a celebration costing £600,000.
By 2014 her spending on luxury goods was running at £2million a year.
That year’s shopping list included 12 diamond rings, 62 pairs of Ferragamo shoes, 33 pairs made by Gucci and an £80,000 Rolex watch.
After one trip to London, where she stayed in a suite at Claridge’s, Mrs Mugabe was asked how she could justify spending so much on designer shoes.
‘I have very narrow feet, so I can only wear Ferragamo,’ came the reply.