President Robert Mugabe last week carried out a mini reshuffle of his cabinet after firing Vice President Joice Mujuru and eight other ministers who supported her, The Zimbabwean has reported.
He appointed new ministers aligned to Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has been made senior Vice President and introduced the ministry of ex-combatants' affairs, but left the women's affairs and gender post unfilled.
Misheck Sibanda, the secretary to the president and cabinet, gave no explanation for the omission, but highly placed sources said Mugabe had offered it to Grace and she rejected it.
Grace was confirmed as the chairperson of women's affairs at the recent Zanu (PF) congress and there were expectations that, with no experience in government, she would land the gender ministry.
She replaced Oppah Muchinguri, who has been given the higher education post in cabinet, as the women's league boss. Muchinguri headed the women's affairs ministry before her re-assignment.
"President Mugabe had no choice but to leave the gender ministry vacant as he consults on what to do next after the First Lady flatly refused the post. She thinks the president is being ungrateful in giving her a relatively weak ministry, boasting that she is the one responsible for ousting Mai Mujuru for allegedly wanting to topple him," said one of the sources. Others claimed that Grace wanted the defence, mines or home affairs ministry.
"She is particularly interested in the defence ministry and wants to take over from Sydney Sekeramayi, who has been linked to Mai Mujuru. She vowed not to take the offered post and ordered Mugabe to do a more comprehensive cabinet reshuffle when his annual leave is over," said another source.
He said the president was not comfortable with Grace's demands as he doubted the military would accept her as she has no war credentials.
Mugabe recently went to the Far East on leave until January 15, leaving his newly appointed deputy to act in his place. While on leave, the 90-year-old President fired seven more ministers and is expected to fire more ministers upon his return from Asia. The sources speculated that Mugabe would announce a new cabinet after resuming office in January or early in February.
There have been reports that Mnangagwa is plotting with Grace to retire Mugabe, possibly at his birthday in late February.
Grace, 49, was married to Mugabe in 1996 after a secret affair when she was employed in his secretarial office.
It is widely believed that she has been indirectly running government affairs in order to advance her own political interests after realising that her husband's age is taking a toll on him and she wants to secure her future in the event that he becomes incapacitated.
Efforts to talk to Misheck Sibanda were fruitless as his office secretary said he was busy.