What does Grace mean for Zim?

Lesotho Times - - Opinion - Gwynne Dyer

the “Bush War” against the white regime and once shot down a Rhode­sian mil­i­tary he­li­copter with a ma­chine­gun, had more support among the party’s ac­tivists. In any case, with the next “elec­tion” not due un­til 2018 and Mu­gabe show­ing no signs of im­mi­nent mor­tal­ity, there was no ur­gency in the sit­u­a­tion.

Then in Septem­ber, Mu­juru was awarded a PhD by the Univer­sity of Zim­babwe for a the­sis on “strate­gic ex­ploratory en­trepreneur­ship”, what­ever that may be. (Zim­babwe is a poor and mis­man­aged coun­try, but it prob­a­bly has the best-ed­u­cated pop­u­la­tion in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, so a higher aca­demic de­gree is a po­lit­i­cal as­set.)

It’s not clear how much of the work Dr. Mu­juru did her­self, but her the­sis was soon on the shelves of the univer­sity li­brary.

The re­mark­able thing is that Robert Mu­gabe’s wife Grace was awarded a PhD in so­ci­ol­ogy at the same cer­e­mony, although she had only en­rolled at the univer­sity three months be­fore.

Since mid-Septem­ber, how­ever, Zim­babwe has been through a three-month po­lit­i­cal bl­itzkrieg that saw Grace Mu­gabe sup­plant Mu­juru as the heir ap­par­ent to the pres­i­dency of Zim­babwe.

First she was nom­i­nated as the head of the Zanu-PF’s women’s league, de­spite a com­plete lack of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence.

Then she em­barked on a “meet­the-na­tion” tour of all 10 of Zim­babwe’s prov­inces whose main theme was the vil­i­fi­ca­tion of Mu­juru.

She called the vice-pres­i­dent “cor­rupt, an ex­tor­tion­ist, in­com­pe­tent, a gos­siper, a liar and un­grate­ful,” adding that she was “power-hun­gry, daft, fool­ish, di­vi­sive and a dis­grace.”

She claimed that Mu­juru was col­lab­o­rat­ing with op­po­si­tion forces and white peo­ple to un­der­mine the coun­try's post-in­de­pen­dence gains. And fi­nally she ac­cused the in­de­pen­dence war hero of plot­ting to as­sas­si­nate her hus­band, Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe.

The pay-off came last week at the Zanu-PF party congress in Harare (take the newly re­named Dr. Grace Mu­gabe Drive and have the chauf­feur drop you at the door).

Mu­juru was purged from the party, with Robert Mu­gabe telling the congress:

“I don’t know how many books we could write about Mu­juru’s crimes.” Grace Mu­gabe was con­firmed as head of the women’s league, and every­body ex­pects that her next stop will be the vice-pres­i­dency.

There were a few dis­sent­ing voices: Jab­u­lani Sibanda, a veteran of the in­de­pen­dence war, told a meet- ing that this was a “bed­room coup” and ar­gued that “power was not sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted.”

But he was charged with in­sult­ing the pres­i­dent, and most peo­ple just kept their heads down. Op­pos­ing the Mu­gabes can be an un­healthy and oc­ca­sion­ally even a fa­tal business.

But what is re­ally go­ing on here? Grace Mu­gabe, Zim­babwe’s First Lady, is a woman of mod­est ed­u­ca­tion and coarse man­ners who met the pres­i­dent when she was man­ning the switch­board at State House.

Forty-one years younger than the pres­i­dent, she be­gan an af­fair with Robert Mu­gabe that pro­duced two chil­dren even be­fore his wife died.

She was known as “First Shop­per” be­cause of her ex­trav­a­gance, but she never showed any in­ter­est in pol­i­tics.

That’s why some ob­servers are per­suaded that she isn’t re­ally Robert Mu­gabe’s choice as suc­ces­sor. On the con­trary, they ar­gue, he’s just us­ing her to clear Mu­juru out of the way so that his real choice, Emmerson Mnan­gagwa, can be­come vice-pres­i­dent.

But it seems an un­nec­es­sar­ily round-about way for an au­to­crat like Mu­gabe to do business.

At last week’s party congress, Mu­gabe, frail and some­times for­get­ful, took the mike to dis­solve the out­go­ing cen­tral com­mit­tee, and in­stead wan­dered off into a lec­ture about the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle. Grace wrote him a note telling him to sit down.

Dyer is an in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ist whose ar­ti­cles are pub­lished in 45 coun­tries.

Grace Mu­gabe talks to Deputy Pres­i­dent emmerson Mnan­gagwa (right) in Harare yes­ter­day.

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