Encore as Zimbabweans can at last laugh lustily at the Mugabes on stage
FOR the first time Zimbabweans can laugh at Robert Mugabe on stage without worrying they may be arrested or the play banned.
In a new and daring comedy about the soft coup d’état in Harare in November, audiences have packed the theatre and are convulsed with laughter as they watch actress Carol Magena playing Grace Mugabe, teetering around on the stage, trying to seduce the army commander, while her frail 93-yearold old husband, Robert Mugabe, played by Mike Banda, is slumped in his chair, asleep.
The play opens when Mugabe is under house arrest after the military has taken over, and Grace is shrieking at anyone who will listen that she wants to leave Zimbabwe immediately and go to Dubai, her favourite shopping destination.
Playwright Charles Munganasa has written a hilarious script of what he imagines the first couple would be saying to one another in their mansion, popularly known as Blue Roof, and to the army commander, Constantino Chiwenga, shortly after it took power.
Magena said she was having the “time of her life” as the former first lady who emerged into Zimbabwe’s political arena three years ago and hatched a plan to inherit the top job.
She said it was easy to portray Grace, both physically and emotionally, as she had been on state television regularly.
“She ensured all were on TV.
“We saw that she was a phenomenal character who almost overnight was in the spotlight. Everyone was talking about her. She is unpredictable, erratic, volatile, even crazy.
“She said anything that came into her head. We watched as she dominated the media, getting people fired, insulting senior her meetings people. She was calling the shots – she was in control of Zimbabwe.”
The reality was that Mugabe, pushed by his wife, sacked his loyal vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa in October and he, believing he would be arrested or killed, fled across the border to Mozambique, then to South Africa.
His loyal military ally General Chiwenga moved a few dilapidated tanks into town, took over the state broadcaster and surrounded Mugabe’s mansion.
And with limited violence and a few arrests, that was the end of Mugabe’s long and ultimately ruinous 37 years in power.
Tens of thousands of people celebrated in the streets all over the country when he resigned and Mnangagwa returned home and was sworn into office.
Munganasa says he used both facts and his imagination to create the story.
“We did this play for the benefit of future generations – so that the theatre can document history with creative appeal for an audience from all walks of life, using comedy to communicate so that people can discuss political events and laugh.”
The play’s short three-day run was sold out and has been extended this week by popular demand. It closed on Friday but is expected to tour Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Munganasa said the play destroyed Mugabe’s legacy.
“He was lost within his own political camp and he thought he was untouchable and invincible and he surrendered power to his wife.”
He called the play Operation Restore Regasi, because Chiwenga (played by Munganasa) cannot pronounce the letter “L” in English and uses “R” instead.
The army’s campaign to oust Mugabe was called Operation Restore Legacy.
Munganasa told the media, with a laugh this week, that he hoped retired general Chiwenga, who is now vice-president of Zimbabwe, never has to say the word “elections” in public.
“We had a fabulous last night. It was standing-room only and so many people were laughing so much,” Munganasa said.