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Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe at State House in Harare, Nov. 19, 2017. Photo: AP

Since Robert Mugabe is a liberation icon, popular across Africa, his still-ruling ZANU-PF regime is trying to shift the blame for Zimbabwe’s ills from the recently deposed president to his wife, Grace. Former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa has represented his coup as an “intervention” against the “criminals” that surrounded Mugabe, and the impeachment charges against Mugabe included his failure to keep Grace and her associates under control, but no accusations of criminal behavior by him.

This political spin furthers a familiar contrast between the “wicked Grace” and the “Amai” (mother) narrative of Sally, Mugabe’s first wife, who was as popular as Grace is unpopular. According to ZANU-PF orthodoxy, Mugabe went off the rails only after Sally's death, so his loss of power can be attributed to Grace.

Ultimately, neither wife played much of a role in Mugabe's misgovernance of Zimbabwe, which began before Sally’s death. He was able to use Grace as a pawn because she posed less of a succession threat that any of the alternative candidates.

The bottom line: Mugabe’s tyranny was purely the product of his own ruthlessness and lust for control, and his removal from office the result of miscalculation and overreach.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden watch a fireworks show on the National Mall from the Truman Balcony at the White House on Wednesday night. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden signed his first executive orders into law from the Oval Office on Wednesday evening after walking in a brief inaugural parade to the White House with First Lady Jill Biden and members of their family. He was inaugurated with Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Many of Biden's day one actions immediately reverse key Trump administration policies, including rejoining the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization, launching a racial equity initiative and reversing the Muslim travel ban.

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.