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The Strange Case of Grace Mugabe’s Dairy Farm and Brandy Bottle Bombs

Zimbabwe's prosecutor-general was arrested after trying to drop charges in an alleged bomb attempt on the Mugabe family's dairy.

Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe speaks during a campaign meeting at the City Sports Center in Harare, October 8, 2014. Mugabe, who was endorsed to lead the party's powerful women's wing ahead of the ZANU-PF congress in December, has pushed the same theme at a series of rallies she launched last week. AFP PHOTO/JEKESAI NJIKIZANA        (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe speaks during a campaign meeting at the City Sports Center in Harare, October 8, 2014. Mugabe, who was endorsed to lead the party's powerful women's wing ahead of the ZANU-PF congress in December, has pushed the same theme at a series of rallies she launched last week. AFP PHOTO/JEKESAI NJIKIZANA (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Grace Mugabe, the 50-year old wife of aging Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, is a woman of many talents. Since marrying her husband in 1996, she has overseen the construction of lavish homes, managed an orphanage, and earned her Ph.D. in just a few months — possibly without even writing a dissertation.

She also runs a dairy production plant outside of the Zimbabwean capital of Harare, which has somewhat strangely become the center of national controversy after four men, one of whom was an army corporal and another a retired intelligence officer, allegedly tried to blow it up last month.

The case took a new turn Monday evening when the country’s chief prosecutor was arrested and later charged with obstruction of justice after he tried to drop charges against at least two of the group of four. Prosecutor-General Johannes Tomana was transported to court in the back of a police van Tuesday, and later released after paying $1,000 bail. He will appear again in court on Feb. 16, the same day as the four suspects in last month’s alleged bomb plot.

According to the Herald, a state-controlled Zimbabwean newspaper, the four men were charged with “possession of weaponry for sabotage and money laundering for terrorism purposes.” The newspaper claimed they were carrying brandy bottles filled with petrol, ammonium nitrate, nails, and sand, which detectives believe were intended to blow up the dairy facility.

Zimbabwean officials said the men belonged to the Zimbabwe People’s Front, a relatively unknown opposition movement, and were also carrying both a manifesto for the group and a copy of the Zimbabwean constitution with them when they were arrested.

Michael Reza, who is prosecuting the case, told the Harare court Tuesday that the men planned to launch a coup against 91-year-old Mugabe and had set up a secret opposition training camp outside of the capital.

The aging Mugabe, who has held power for roughly 36 years, has had a number of health scares recently. Last February, photographers caught him tumbling down a set of airplane stairs after returning from a trip to Ethiopia. His party has been forced to consider who will replace him when the time comes, and Grace Mugabe, who is four decades younger than her husband, is a front-runner.

But not everyone agrees, and the ruling Zanu-PF party has split over the issue: Some back the first lady and others prefer current Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Tomana, who came under fire last year for refusing to prosecute a case involving the alleged rape of a young girl by a lawmaker, is reportedly a close ally of the vice president. And his lawyer, Thabani Mpofu, maintains he acted legally and responsibly when he dismissed two of the suspects in last month’s bomb scare.

“What he did was an act of prosecutorial function, [and] in terms of the Constitution he enjoyed his independence,” he said Tuesday.

Photo Credit: JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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