GWERU, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s first lady made her first public statement Friday since being accused of assaulting a young model in neighboring South Africa, but she steered clear of the incident in her comments.

Grace Mugabe appeared with her 93-year-old husband at a political rally ahead of next year’s elections.

Zimbabwe’s government and state media have kept silence on the accusations against the first lady. She returned to Zimbabwe last month after South Africa granted her diplomatic immunity.

Mugabe used her appearance at the rally to criticize ruling party members who publicly declare loyalty to President Robert Mugabe but insult his family behind his back.

“If you insult Mugabe, you will not be blessed,” she warned, calling her husband a “prophet.”

The first lady’s political profile has been rising in recent years, and recently she publicly challenged her husband for the first time to choose a successor. The president, the world’s oldest head of state, has refused to do so.

The ruling ZANU-PF party’s youth leader, an organizer of Friday’s rally, urged Grace Mugabe to discipline youths who “misbehave.”

“It’s your right as our mother to discipline us. You can even use a whip, you are allowed,” Kudzai Chipanga said. “If you don’t discipline us, people will end up blaming you.”

Author photo
FARAI MUTSAKA
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