In the end, it will be all about the money.

How much one of Africa's richest and greediest women will get to keep of her dubiously acquired gains now rests on the embittered enemies who plotted the spectacular downfall of Grace Mugabe, still, just, Zimbabwe's first lady.

As the generals behind Zimbabwe's coup negotiated Robert Mugabe's enforced departure, immunity from prosecution for the first couple and just how much cash the President gets to keep to sustain his wife's lavish lifestyle will be high on the agenda.

For a woman whose arrogance was as legendary as her temper, Grace Mugabe's downfall was every bit as humiliating as her husband's but even more complete.

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In the capital Harare, the central committee of Zanu-PF, the ruling party that once indulged every whim of the Mugabes, met to extract their revenge against a woman as hated in the echelons of power as she was on the streets of Zimbabwe.

For Mugabe, the chairman of the meeting, Obert Mpofu, could muster some words of praise, recalling his "many memorable achievements" even as the committee stripped him of his leadership of the party.

For Grace Mugabe, there was only scorn.

She stood accused of "preaching hate, divisiveness and assuming roles and powers not delegated to office," Mr Mpofu pronounced.

Worse, she and her close associates "have taken full advantage of his condition" to loot the country's national resources, making it apparent that Grace Mugabe rather than her husband would be held accountable for the plundering of Zimbabwe.

As delegates clapped and hooted, the first lady was expelled both from the party and her role as head of its women's league.

Moving from obsequiousness to obloquy in a short week, even the Zanu-PF youth league, from where she drew her most fanatical support, accused her of being the leader of a gang of "criminals" and demanded that her expulsion last "forever".

Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe with Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Photo / AP file
Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe with Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Photo / AP file

If he finally accepts resignation, Robert Mugabe may yet emerge with his reputation intact, revered as an elder statesman by a forgiving country. For Grace Mugabe it appeared there would be no way back, her fate sealed as a deeply reviled figure, the Imelda Marcos of Zimbabwe.

The intimidating aura that once surrounded her has gone, the former typist who caught the eye of her husband, 41 years her senior, while his first wife was dying now faces a future of ignominy and infamy.

While some will question whether she should bear responsibility for her husband's sins as well as her own, many Zimbabweans will argue that she richly deserves her fall, one brought about by her attempt to manoeuvre herself into Mugabe's shoes.

Zimbabweans called her Gucci Grace, marvelling and outraged at her ostentation, bullying and larceny on a scarcely believable scale.

The bullying manifested itself most recently when, in September, she allegedly used an electric cable to beat up a model who had become too familiar with her sons.

But it is her vast wealth that will preoccupy Zimbabweans now. Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe's president-in-waiting, and her most hated rival, is almost certain to want to repossess Grace Mugabe's vast assets, particularly her property empire, much of which by right belongs to the Zimbabwean state.

A protester demanding that President Robert Mugabe stands down carries a placard referring to Mugabe's wife Grace Mugabe in Harare on Sunday. Photo / AP
A protester demanding that President Robert Mugabe stands down carries a placard referring to Mugabe's wife Grace Mugabe in Harare on Sunday. Photo / AP

Few politicians in Zimbabwe benefited as much as she in the acquisition of farmland once owned by whites until Mugabe embarked on his financially ruinous policy to seize them, supposedly in the name of equitable land redistribution.

She and her husband seized tens of thousands of hectares of prime farm land, said to stretch across 20 farms, that even outstripped Tiny Rowland, the former head of Lonhro and once Zimbabwe's biggest landowner. Her first target was the Iron Mask Estate, a 1215ha farm owned by an elderly couple, John and Eva Matthews.

In August 2002, she arrived at the farm wielding a pistol and accompanied by senior army officers. She had the police arrest Matthews, who was 78 at the time, and ordered black farmers out of their homes. "I was told that I had 48 hours to get off the farm and if they found me here after that they would lock me up straight away," Matthews told the Daily Telegraph as he packed up his belongings the following day.

Iron Mask was not enough for a woman whose hunger for land could never be sated. She seized one from a black high court judge who had himself taken a white-owned farm.
But she was never an astute businesswoman. Despite spending millions of pounds building vanity projects, from schools for the elite to office blocks and luxury houses, many soon floundered, and she allegedly ran up a £20 million overdraft.

In theory the farms belonged to the government because Mugabe changed the constitution in 2005 to make all land the property of the state - but she never saw it that way, except to ensure that her workers were paid by the government.

Protesters demanding President Robert Mugabe stand down in Harare. Photo / AP
Protesters demanding President Robert Mugabe stand down in Harare. Photo / AP

Once thriving farms turned to dust. A dairy she seized largely collapsed after her herd started to produce milk infected with pus because she had no idea about how to take basic precautions to prevent mastitis.

There were acquisitions abroad too, with the purchase of a Johannesburg mansion at a reported cost of £3 million and a three-storey flat in Hong Kong she claims was illegally seized from her.

But most of her time has been spent in the gaudy blue-tiled mansion she insisted her husband build at a cost of £10 million. Not for her the residence of British governors of yore. She wanted something bigger, better, more suited to a woman who spent £1 million on a diamond ring bought from a gem trader in Dubai.

Almost certainly destined for exile, Grace Mugabe is likely to have to embrace a more modest lifestyle in the future.

Zimbabweans will have little sympathy - better that than a prison cell, a fate likely to await the once powerful political allies who thought her future as president was assured.