Greek model and beauty industry expert becomes liberation war hero in Zimbabwe


A glamorous Greek model has become the first white woman to be declared a liberation war hero by the Zimbabwean authorities.

Kiki Divaris, a leading member of Harare’s Greek community, struck up a friendship with Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president, after independence in 1980 and was close to both his first wife Sally and his current wife Grace.

She never made political statements, but she promoted models, and was the driving force behind the Miss Zimbabwe competition. She went to many public events, usually elegantly dressed with eye-catching hats.

Only one white man was declared a liberation hero – a Briton – Guy Clutton-Brock who is buried at Hero’s Acre outside Harare.

Mrs Divaris died in hospital last weekend aged 90 and will be given a state-assisted funeral this week.

She first made headlines when shortly after independence she designed a gown for the first Miss Zimbabwe competition. She handed over the beauty pageant business three years ago to Mary Chiwenga, a former model she tutored who went on to become second wife of Constantine Chiwenga, Zimbabwe’s feared army commander.

Robert MugabeRobert Mugabe  Photo: AFP

“To me, Mrs Divaris was a great mentor. She reminded me of Princess Diana … she gave love to make Zimbabwe a better place to live in,” Mrs Chiwenga said this week.

“Losing her as a grandmother and mentor, makes my heart ache.”

Black Opal Cosmetics said Mrs Divaris “will always be remembered as a pioneer and leader in the Zimbabwe beauty industry”. She was Zimbabwe’s “modelling queen”.

Mrs Divaris, who was born in Sparta, grew up in Cape Town where she met her husband Tony, a doctor.

Her brother-in-law, Dennis Divaris, was a former MP in Rhodesian leader Ian Smith’s last government at the height of the war against Mr Mugabe’s guerrillas.

Miriam Chikukwa, Harare metropolitan provincial minister, delivered Mr Mugabe’s message to the Divaris family. “Divaris is one person who showed and proved that you can be white, but indigenous.”

Mr Mugabe and senior politicians and military leaders are expected to attend Mrs Divaris’s funeral this week during the annual Zanu PF conference in Victoria Falls.

Political insiders say Mr Mugabe, 91, will be endorsed as the party’s presidential candidate at the next elections in 2018.

Many believe Mr Mugabe, who may be increasingly infirm, has nevertheless choreographed his wife’s extraordinary political rise within the ruling party which is squabbling over succession. They say Mrs Mugabe’s growing power and influence will ensure the survival of a Mugabe dynasty after he dies.

Mrs Mugabe, 50, said last week she was senior within Zimbabwe’s political hierarchy in Zanu PF to the two vice presidents, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko.

She told supporters at a rally last week that she could not be “counted out” as the next president of Zimbabwe.

“I might be new in Zanu PF, but I am not junior to anyone. I am the wife of the president.”

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