Grace Mugabe is not a trophy wife


THERE is a huge fight in the neighbourhood. It has caused this rather chaotic neighbourhood to forget about Ebola and how it has exposed crisis of leadership in most African countries and the racism of the United States in its approach to the disease.

A woman goes around the neighbourhood shouting and cursing at an almost “unknown” woman. Grace-Mugabe-liars

People are left to make inferences. The neighbourhood gets to know the true identity of the targeted woman as the shouting woman finally stands at the former’s gate shouting, cursing, screaming and all at this woman who seems locked in her house.

Behind her is group of men and women cheering and spurring her on. This seems to fuel and excite her even more and she lets loose a volley of obscenities with reckless abandon. In the vicinity are bystanders. Listening in shock and horror and expecting the woman in the house to return fire or at least defend herself. She is nowhere to be seen.

This is not Mbare. Rather, this has been the spectacular political theatre in Zimbabwe in the past few days. And castrations and the like have been televised too. Just like the South African political theatrics, we had our own Julius Malema version with a no-holds-barred approach. Levels of sophistication are different though, and it is up to you dear reader to make an assessment.

There are a few observations that I wish to make regarding First Lady Grace Mugabe’s whirlwind “meet the people” show. I must confess, I think it might help shape the politics of Zimbabwe for the better.

While in some cases she went overboard in trying to provoke Vice-President Joice Mujuru into a verbal war, she has said some interesting things. Grace’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao argued that the First Lady is not just a beauty without brains, she has brains.

She is a scholar in the field of sociology with a degree on orphans and the like.

When President Robert Mugabe married Grace she appeared to many people and indeed to yours truly as a trophy wife. If you listen to Mugabe at weddings you can tell that he is a charmer and a man who knows how to choose a woman. If, at that time we had a beauty contest for African First Ladies, I dare say Grace was going to take the cup.

Her recent political rallies have, to a certain extent, dismantled the view that she is a trophy wife.

She has had her life as a farmer, businesswoman and orphanages operator and now she has been plunged, without much grooming, headlong onto the messy political stage. Besides, our African first ladies rarely have lives of their own outside the shadows of their husbands. Very few are articulate and can hold their own in advancing certain causes they believe in.

More often than not, just like beauty queens, they are expected to run pre-schools, orphanages and some charity work. Grace’s background is not far from this.

However, media reports of Grace’s rise into business are littered with allegations of farm invasions and it becomes difficult to appreciate her as a self-made businessperson. Some crows are beautified with others’ feathers!

Grace’s recent political outbursts, even though not polished, show to the world this woman who is fighting wars that are not necessarily hers. It is interesting that when the world realised that she was attacking Mujuru, her team tried to do some damage control, Mac Maharaj style.

Every time Jacob Zuma says something dumb, his spokesman always tries to rise to the occasion to clarify what number one really said —making a fool of himself at the end of the day.

Similarly Grace’s team has found itself in the same boat, especially when she first attacked Mujuru for lazying around while her’s husband sweated alone during presidential campaigns. When Grace went to Bindura, we could not be left guessing any more. Neither was there any need for a Mac Maharaj. She went on a rampage and scandalised Mujuru.

They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend and indeed Grace had a bone to chew with Mujuru over this. And this was not comic relief anymore.

On the political stage, Mujuru is a bit better in articulating issues even though she trips here and there. Her silence is interesting and reminds one of the time when a deranged woman stabbed Martin Luther King Jnr and the blade was stuck into his body such that had he sneezed that was going to be the end of his life. He did not sneeze.

Mujuru has not sneezed yet and we might assume that she still has her political life. We may not tell whether the blade that Grace stabbed her with has taken her into the emergency room or not. Or she has told herself that even though justified to fight back, she would remain dignified and ignore the rumblings of the past few weeks.

Interestingly The Herald went far and wide looking for political commentators (from Zanu PF of course) who advised Mujuru to relinquish her post as the second person in command of the nation in the face of Grace’s accusations. Notice that the veracity of Grace’s outbursts and Mujur’s side are immaterial.

I guess the truth depends on where one sleeps. Again the Zanu PF-controlled, but faction-leaning public media are playing an anchoring role in this fiasco and this might have ramifications on some people’s jobs should these bulls finish their fights. The script cannot be clearer.

What is clear though is that Zanu PF is a highly toxic party and that cannot be clearer at any time than now. The fact that factionalism is ripping the party apart cannot be denied. The detoxification process the party has chosen, even though entertaining, is both bizarre and scary.

It is scary because, in the absence of any credible opposition party, Zimbabwe seems to face some bleak moments especially for now.

The future might be bright depending on the detoxification process, but from where I stand Zimbabwe is better off with another generation of leaders.

Grace’s calls on faction players and on Mujuru was that they need to resign. The most important call she ever made was that those responsible for many (perceived) ills, albeit in Zanu PF, need to pack and go.

One may even go further and say that Zanu PF has vandalised our future as a country and that of the forthcoming generations. The whole party needs to pack and go. I recall only one credible Zanu PF minister, Edmund Garwe, who resigned after his daughter caused a Form Two Maths exam paper to leak. The current generation of Zanu PF ministers would see a fool in Garwe.

But here was a principled man who took his country seriously. It is difficult to appreciate the seriousness of some of our ministers who think that they exist to serve the narrow interests of one individual and one political party.

Therefore, we may need to extend Grace’s call to the whole party. They may come back when they give birth to the beautiful ones for the beautiful ones are not yet born.

For the past three decades, Zimbabwe has consistently gone down the precipice. One friend of mine in South Sudan said it was now a cemetery. MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai once said Ian Smith was better.

One sympathises with such views given that we expected the colonial regime to behave the way it behaved. On inquiry, I found that electricity outages and water were not issues.

Today we want to celebrate and argue that things are better than a few years back without asking ourselves how we got here. That some people helped liberate this country does not justify their perpetual hold on power.

What this has done is create mini-dictatorships at various levels of our lives at home, work, public institutions etc because those in power at those spaces are inspired by Zanu PF.

They have been beholding Zanu PF for a long time such that they have become like it. They always argue that they have been doing these things for five, 10, 30 years and there is nothing anyone with better ideas and exposure from elsewhere can tell them.

Some institutions, public offices etc are on the decline because of incompetence and being manned or womanned by dead wood. We need a rejuvenated national leadership so as to inspire leaders outside politics likewise. But for this we might need to wait for 2018.

Shepherd Mpofu is a media studies and journalism lecturer at Nust. He writes in his personal capacity.