Sally Mugabe

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Sally Mugabe
Sally Mugabe, Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe First Lady
BornSarah Francesca Heyfron
(1931-06-06) June 6, 1931 (age 92)
DiedJanuary 27, 1992(1992-01-27) (aged 60)
  • First Lady of Zimbabwe.
Spouse(s)Robert Mugabe
ChildrenNhamodzenyika Michael Mugabe, Late, Leo Mugabe (adopted), Albert Mugabe (adopted)

Born Sarah Francesca Heyfron, Sally Mugabe was the first wife of the president of the Republic of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe. Amai (mother), as she was affectionately known by the Zimbabweans was the first woman to be buried at the National Heroes Acre in Harare after being declared a national hero.[1]


She was born in Ghana on June 6, 1931 and was married to the nationalist politician since 1961.[2] Sally was born and raised in the West African colony of Ghana which was known as the Gold Coast during the colonial period.[2] She grew up in the West African British colony at a time in which the early forms of Pan-African nationalist politicians were beginning to gather momentum. She went to Achimota Secondary School in Ghana where she successfully completed her secondary education. Soon after this, she proceeded to Takoradi Teacher Training College where she enrolled for a teaching certificate. It was at this institution where she met her future husband Mugabe.

Marriage to Robert Mugabe

Sally with her Husband Robert Mugabe

After falling in love with Robert Mugabe who was still a teacher during this time, Sally eventually wedded Mugabe in April 1961 in the then Salisbury city of Rhodesia (now Harare). The couple were blessed with a baby boy in 1963 whom they christened Micheal Nhamodzenyika (a Shona name which means misfortunes are with us). Nhamo however passed away in 1966 in Ghana after succumbing to Malaria and Robert Mugabe who was now serving his 11 year jail term was not given the chance to bury his son.[2]

In Love with a Nationalist, In Love with Nationalist Politics

Whether Sally's entrance into nationalist politics was part of the family obligation or was part of the political consciousness of the time is not known. It is nevertheless clear that Sally Mugabe was actively involved in the nationalist political activity which defined the facade of politics of the continent during this period.

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In 1967, Sally went into exile in Britain after the arrest of her husband Mugabe together with other nationalists from the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) party.[2] She spent the next eight years campaigning for the release of political detainees in Rhodesia, including her husband who had been arrested in 1964 and was to remain incarcerated for eleven years. Sally subsequently joined Mugabe in Maputo Mozambique after the latter was released from prison and escape into Mozambique to organise the Second Chimurenga war against Ian Smith regime. During her stay in Mozambique, Sally was the mother figure to thousands of Zimbabwean refugees who had sought comfort in camps such as Chimoio and Nyadzonya. During this period she worked closely with other nationalist leaders such as Edgar Tekere and Simon Muzenda in securing refuge for Zimbabweans in Mozambique.[2]

In 1978 she was elected Zanu deputy secretary for the Women’s League. In 1980 she assumed a new, national role as wife of Zimbabwe’s first black Prime Minister. She was elected secretary-general of the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) Women’s League at the party’s congress in 1989. Amai Sally Mugabe founded the Zimbabwe Child Survival Movement and launched the Zimbabwe Women’s Co-operative in Britian in 1986. She also supported Akina Mama wa Africa, a London-based African women’s organisation focusing on development and women’s issues in Africa and the UK.


She died of kidney failure on the 27th of January 1992 in Harare. Grace Mugabe accused of stealing Sally's husband, "THEZIMDIASPORA", published:22 jUL 2013,retrieved:13 Aug 2014"</ref> In one interview in 2013, Robert Mugabe openly claimed that he sought the approval Sally to sire a child with Grace Mugabe since his mother had complained that she was going to pass away without holding a grandchild.[3]


Sally Mugabe left behind the legacy of a nation's mother figure who had passionate care for the less privileged especially women and children. Due to her commendable work through the Child Survival Movement initiative, Sally was posthumously honoured as her face was put on the Zimbabwe Postage stamps in year 2000.[3] A school in Harare was also named after her due to her role as the motherly figure of the nation who had compassion for the less privileged. A residential area in Harare was also named Sally Mugabe Heights due to her commitment towards the empowerment of women particularly widows and single mothers. Critics have argued that Grace Mugabe's humanitarian works through the Grace Mugabe charity work in Mazowe and Danhiko projects are just a continuation of Sally's philanthropic works.


  1. T. Motsi, Cde Sally: Mudzimai wekutanga kuvigwa paNational Heroes Acre, Kwaedza, Published:31 Jul 2014, Retrieved:13 Aug 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 , Sally Mugabe remembered, The Herald, Published:28 January 2014, Retrieved:13 Aug 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 T. Kwidini, Mugabe Tells Of Old Secret Affair With Grace, "ZimEye", published:24 May 2013,retrieved:13 Aug 2014"

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