Tue, Sep 06, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Zimbabwe woman guilty of pretending to be the first lady

DPA , HARARE

A Zimbabwean woman has been sentenced to 420 hours of community service for impersonating President Robert Mugabe's wife Grace, a newspaper reported yesterday.

Rosemary Chakacha, 23, was sentenced by Harare magistrate Sandra Nhau after she pleaded guilty to fraud by pretending to be the first lady in order to get herself and a friend enrolled in a nurse training school at Harare Central Hospital.

The state-controlled Herald said that in September last year Chakacha phoned the hospital and told the matron she was Grace Mugabe and was sending two aspiring candidates to be registered.

Chakacha and her friend then went to the hospital and had their applications processed.

`Brazen criminal resolve'

In passing sentence, the magistrate said Chakacha was guilty of "brazen criminal resolve."

"The need to protect the dignity and reputation of the first lady as well as the Office of the President cannot be underestimated," she said.

The Herald said Chakacha's plans were foiled when she insisted that she and her friend be enrolled immediately, prompting the authorities to make enquiries with the president's office and exposing her plan.

Zimbabwe-trained nurses are in demand in places like Britain, where they can get well-paid jobs and remit money to families struggling to survive back home. Zimbabwe is in the grip of an economic crisis, marked by triple digit inflation, 70 percent unemployment and growing poverty.

In a separate report the Herald said Harare's Parirenyatwa Hospital needed more than 200 nurses. Seventy-four left the hospital between January and last month, the paper said.

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