Some Zanu PF officials are moving around the country coercing stressed private sector and State-owned companies to allegedly bankroll a lavish 50th birthday bash for increasingly influential First Lady Grace Mugabe who reaches the significant milestone on July 23.

This is not the first time that controversy has been ignited in the country regarding birthday celebrations for members of the First Family.

Earlier this year, there was widespread unhappiness after the same modus operandi was used to raise funds for President Robert Mugabe's 91st birthday that was held in the resort town of Victoria Falls.

But Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya-Moyo would neither confirm nor deny the plans for the party, as well as the bona fides of the solicitors yesterday — referring all questions to the party's administration secretary, Ignatius Chombo and secretary for Finance, Patrick Chinamasa, who could not be reached.

"Can you check with the secretary for administration or the secretary for finance," Khaya-Moyo said, adding, "surely this should be falling under the secretary for Finance".

Spokesperson for the Zanu PF Women's League, Monica Mutsvangwa, was also not taking calls from us.

But sources close to companies that had been approached by the people purporting to be fundraising for the birthday bash said they had been told that the organisers were hoping to raise "millions" from both State-owned and private companies — all of which are already heavily-weighed down by the country's deepening economic crisis.

One of the sources close to a parastatal boss who had been approached said the solicitors had said they were planning "to host a dinner in honour of Dr Amai, demanding $100 000 for a table".

The dinner is apparently scheduled to take place soon after Grace's return from New York for the UN summit on Ebola where she accompanied her nonagenarian husband.

Grace, who has lately been flaunting her power and bragging about instructing senior government officials, was appointed head of Zanu PF's powerful Women's wing last December, giving her an automatic place on the ruling party's politburo.

Two weeks ago, she caused huge embarrassment to the country's two vice presidents, Phelekezela Mphoko and Emmerson Mnangagwa, when she boasted that they come to her to receive notes on how to run the country.

At the same time, Grace's name has often been used by senior Zanu PF officials to extort money from unsuspecting individuals and companies, claiming falsely that they would have been sent by the controversial First Lady.

Former powerful Zanu PF youth leader in Harare, Godwin Gomwe, and a number of other party youths, are in court facing charges of extortion after being accused of using Grace's name to forcibly take money from people.

A Harare province executive member was also suspended two months ago for going around collecting money from people claiming that it was Grace's protection fees.

The youths soliciting for donations for her supposed birthday bash claim that the fundraising committee has set a  yet to be announced target for each of the country's 10 provinces.

But the solicitors are stating very clearly  that they would like to host "a massive party in honour of the 50th birthday of the First Lady".

Grace, née Marufu was born on 23 July 1965. She has been married to Mugabe since 1996. Previously, she was married to Stanley Goreraza, an air force pilot, now working in the Department of Foreign Affairs and serving overseas, reportedly in China.

Before her marriage to Mugabe, she was a typist in the president's office where she met the nonagenarian and became his mistress.

In 2014, Grace was awarded a controversial doctorate in sociology by the University of Zimbabwe, allegedly only two months after registering at the university, with the degree widely described as fraudulent.

During Mugabe's own 91st birthday celebrations, Zanu PF was mired in an embarrassing financial scandal after it emerged that companies were duped into depositing cash donations running into millions of dollars into a parallel 21st February Movement bank account for the nonagenarian's lavish bash that was held in Victoria Falls.

It was suggested at the time that unsuspecting companies could have deposited as much as $13 million into the parallel account, which could not be accounted for.

Three suspects — a national women's league executive member, a State residence employee and a businesswomen with powerful political connections based in the Midlands province — were sucked into the scandal.

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