Mu­gabes bring the house down with stage coup

The Sunday Independent - - News - PETA THORNYCROFT

FOR the first time Zim­bab­weans can now laugh at Robert Mu­gabe at the the­atre with­out wor­ry­ing they may be ar­rested or the play banned. In a new and dar­ing com­edy about the soft coup in Harare in Novem­ber, au­di­ences have packed out the the­atre and are con­vulsed with laugh­ter as they watch ac­tress Carol Ma­gena play­ing Grace, tee­ter­ing around stage try­ing to se­duce the army com­man­der, while her frail old hus­band, Robert Mu­gabe, 93 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, and to the army com­man­der, Con­stantino Chi­wenga, af­ter the army took power.

Ma­gena said she was hav­ing the “time of her life” as the for­mer first lady who emerged into Zim­babwe’s po­lit­i­cal arena only three years ago and hatched a plan to in­herit the top job from her hus­band. She said it was easy to por­tray Grace as the for­mer first lady was so reg­u­larly on state TV. “She en­sured all her meet­ings were on TV. We saw that she is a phe­nom­e­nal char­ac­ter, who al­most overnight was in the spot­light. Ev­ery­one was talk­ing about her. We watched as she dom­i­nated the me­dia, get­ting peo­ple fired, in­sult­ing se­nior 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, walk­ing across the bor­der to Mozam­bique, and then to South Africa. His loyal mil­i­tary ally 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 ru­inous 37 years in power. Tens of thou­sands cel­e­brated when he re­signed and Mnan­gagwa was sworn into of­fice.

Mun­ganasa says he used facts and his imag­i­na­tion to cre­ate what he be­lieves was the con­ver­sa­tion in the first fam­ily’s man­sion at the end. The play’s short three-day run was packed out and ex­tended this week. It closed on Fri­day but will tour Zim­babwe and South Africa. – In­de­pen­dent For­eign News Ser­vice


CEN­TRE STAGE: Robert Mu­gabe with his wife Grace. A play on their fi­nal days at the helm of Zim­babwe has proved pop­u­lar.

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