Zimbabwe First Lady sues a Lebanese businessman in dispute over a diamond ring

President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace attend a rally of his ruling ZANU (PF) in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe, July 29, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace attend a rally of his ruling ZANU (PF) in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe, July 29, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace has sued a Belgium-based businessman for failing to deliver a $1.35 million ring she ordered for a wedding anniversary, state media reported on Wednesday.

Grace, 52, an influential figure in Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party and seen as a potential successor to her husband, is nicknamed “Gucci Grace” for her reputed dedication to shopping.

But she and her 93-year-old husband have kept their assets under wraps despite frequent local private media reports on Grace buying properties in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

The Herald, a government-controlled newspaper, reported that Grace was suing  businessman Jamal Hamed after a deal to have Hamed supply the First Lady with a diamond ring turned sour.

Grace’s spokeswoman Olga Bungu could not be reached for comment on Wednesday while her lawyer Wilson Manase, who filed the papers at the High Court, was said to be attending court.

In court papers seen by the Herald, Grace said she had in 2015 ordered the ring for her 20-year wedding anniversary last year but Hamed failed to deliver and refunded her only $120,000. Herald claimed that Hamed was Lebanese with a Zimbabwean residence permit.

The First Lady asked the High Court to attach properties and three companies owned by Hamed in Harare, the Herald said.

Hamed told Reuters from Belgium that he had not been served with the court papers. His Harare-based lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, said she had not seen the papers.

“We have not received anything at all and I am not in Harare to be served any claim or false allegations,” Hamed said.

In Zimbabwe, at least 8 out of 10 potential workers are unemployed. The average national monthly income is $200 and news of the million-dollar ring was immediately greeted with scorn on social media.

 Mugabe, who says he leads a frugal life, and Grace own a dairy company and several farms near Harare. The two have never responded to media reports that they own several properties.

Last year, Hamed accused Grace of seizing his Harare properties following the dispute and asked the High Court to intervene. He then said Grace had threatened her if he ever returned to Zimbabwe.

Grace, through her lawyer Manase, denied all the accusations.

Grace was was reportedly previously married to Stanley Goreraza, an air force pilot, who is defence attaché at the Zimbabwe embassy in China with whom she had a son, Russell Goreraza, born 1984. As secretary to the president, she reportedly became his mistress while still married to Goreraza and together they had two children, Bona, named after Mugabe’s mother, and Robert Peter, Jr. The couple were married in an extravagant Catholic Mass, titled the “Wedding of the Century” by the Zimbabwe press, after the death of Mugabe’s first wife, Sally Hayfron. In 1997, Mugabe gave birth to the couple’s third child, Chatunga.

In 2014, Grace Mugabe was given a doctorate in sociology by the University of Zimbabwe only two months after registering at the university, without defending a dissertation. The degree was widely described as fraudulent. Grace Mugabe is under personal sanctions in the European Union and the United States for her role in the Mugabe regime.