via Mr President, choose between your legacy and your wife – NewsDay Zimbabwe February 19, 2016
Are we finally on the verge of a political denouement? The climax of a chain of events when things will be decided once and for all in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are resolved?
By Conway Tutani
Almost every place I have been to in Harare over the past few days, the talk has been about First Lady Grace Mugabe’s horror show at her rally in Chiweshe last Friday. It was like a How Not To Address manual. People across the political divide — including staunchest Zanu PF supporters I have known over the years by name — are still shocked and, most tellingly, disgusted. Grace Mugabe has managed to unite the notoriously polarised Zimbabweans against her — from the MDC-T, to Gamatox to Team Lacoste. That sure takes some blundering.
The First Lady jumped from topic to topic. She tried to make fun of things that are not funny; and was too serious about petty non-issues. Her mood swings were there for all to see — from jocular (without much success at that) to unwarranted extreme anger. The address was hardly about the people, but about herself and her perceived than real enemies.
What with the First Lady’s open boast that “ndini ndiri panyanga, ndagara ndiripo” (I am the one who is firmly in charge; in fact, I have always been in charge)? That she would carry her husband, President Robert Mugabe, in a wheelbarrow to work despite the Constitution clearly saying such incapacitation is one of the grounds for the Head of State to step down or be forced to do so? The First Lady had a thoroughly bad day at the office. But no one would dare stop her since “ndiye ari panyanga”. One could detect the discomfort and embarrassment of her close aides and some VIPs on the podium from their body language. The whole drama was unbecoming of a First Lady.
All this was in aid of denigrating the Team Lacoste Zanu PF faction reportedly sympathetic to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who the previous day stoically and, it must be said, with dignity remained silent, when Zanu PF MP Sarah Mahoka tore into him as he was seated right next to President Robert Mugabe — who did not lift a finger to stop Mahoka, giving the impression that he was in on the ambushing secret — accusing the VP of plotting the illegal ouster of his boss.
Mnangagwa was right to demand a man-to-man talk with Mugabe after he was ambushed and publicly humiliated by Mahoka, who audacity showed she was obviously acting as a front for the First Lady. There are too many people in Zanu PF who are prepared to be used as willing tools. They lack the mental capacity to realise that they are being used.
Mnangagwa, however, should be reminded that he came to Grace’s defence when opposition MPs queried her distribution of government-sourced farming inputs at her partisan rallies, making light of her misdeeds and making fools of those who questioned the ethicality and legality of that.
What is clear about these so-called “Meet The People” rallies is that there is no urgent issue at stake or worthy and noble cause — like uplifting the country — for the nation to be put in such danger, except to feed some personal egos. Their is nothing ideological about it — it’s purely personal and individualistic.
There is no patriotism involved. This is what Grace said in 2014 about Fortune Chasi, in whose Mazowe South constituency lies her business empire: “. . . we have a new MP, I don’t know him personally, but his name is Chasi and he is a problem. He is stressing me a lot, andishungurudza zvisingaite.” Should people be bussed to rallies — from far and at great expense — to listen to such tittle tattle, idle talk, gossip? It’s unbecoming for a would-be national leader to give talk about other people’s lives that is unkind, disapproving or not true.
Whatever she does, there is always the subtext that she is taking advantage of her proximity to Mugabe; that she is not flying with her own wings. Her meddlesome ways even in areas where it is not her role and duty to do so does not sit well with the people. The conflation of her roles as First Lady and Zanu PF Women’s League boss is not lost on the people. This usurpation of power, which has been her hallmark since her entry into public politics in 2014, is not endearing at all. People don’t jump for joy when someone takes unfair advantage of his/her position.
Yes, it’s becoming clearer by the day that Grace Mugabe is out to destroy everyone and everything in her path.
All in all, what the First Lady is doing has the unintended consequence of projecting Mugabe as a henpecked husband. A henpecked husband is bullied and intimidated by his wife, is given orders all the time and never dares to contradict her. Need we be reminded that Presidents are also people? After his release from 27 years’ imprisonment in 1990, South Africa’s first black President, Nelson Mandela, was one such henpecked husband and at some point his fed-up bodyguards told his then wife Winnie that they had had enough of her physical abuse of him.
And, finally, Mandela took the painful and drastic step of divorcing Winnie, saying: “If the entire universe tried to persuade me to reconcile with the defendant, I would not . . . I am determined to get rid of this marriage.” Mandela took off that weight before assuming the Presidency in 1994. It would not be proper for Winnie to be bestowed First Ladyship. It’s for someone who is cool and calm by nature; someone who exercises self-control and restraint.
Here, among others
, liberation war veterans have now come out in the open to express their immense dissatisfaction with the First Lady’s ways and are prepared to tell truth to power. You need some “truth-tellers” that can speak honesty into your situation if you are a leader.
Not to mention that the First Lady is playing a dangerous, but losing game because you can’t go around making enemies of everyone — from the minor to the mighty — and prevail.
In our situation in Zimbabwe, the First Lady’s conduct has the real potential of destroying Mugabe’s legacy — or what’s left of it — and taking the country down with her unless Mugabe tells her: “Stop it!”