Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Queen Elizabeth vs Amazing Grace

Opinion by Pedzisai Ruhanya

From Marie Antoinette, Emilda Marcos, Elanor Roosevelt, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to Sally Mugabe, spouses of political leaders have played significant roles in shaping political processes and power retention schemes of their partners.

Morgan and Elizabeth Tsvangirai
Morgan and Elizabeth Tsvangirai

With two weeks to go before Zimbabwe holds its post-transitional election, it is important to interrogate the roles the First Lady Grace Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s wife Elizabeth are playing as they attempt to convince the electorate to vote for their husbands.

This is critical because history has taught us that spouses of political players are potential sources of stability and instability to the political aspirations of their husbands.

They can be stabilising or destabilising forces on the electoral campaigns.

They can be sources of wise counsel to their husbands, but they can equally be destructive.

There are interesting contrasts between Grace and Elizabeth this far. Grace kick-started the public campaigns when she addressed a Zanu PF rally at Nzvimbo growth point in Mashonaland East Province.

She took to the stage and launched vitriol attacks against Tsvangirai, describing him using all sorts of abusive words. Grace did not appreciate the Zanu PF election manifesto in order to convince people why President Robert Mugabe should retain the presidency.

Instead, Grace told her supporters and thousands of Zimbabweans who watched news on Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation Television (ZBC-TV) how ugly Tsvangirai was.

She went on to openly declare that there was no vacancy at State House yet there is an election to precisely fill that vacancy in terms of the legal and constitutional requirements.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe (L) kisses his mistress turned wife Grace as he arrives to attend his country's 33rd independence celebrations at the National Sports stadium in Harare, April 18, 2013
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe (L) kisses his mistress turned wife Grace as he arrives to attend his country’s 33rd independence celebrations at the National Sports stadium in Harare, April 18, 2013

The message that Grace sent was that of arrogance and disrespect of the electorate and the electoral processes. She was telling Zimbabweans that their votes do not matter because Mugabe will remain president irrespective of the legitimate and democratic will of the people.

Most critically, the arrogance, the lack of love, the hate language was very spiteful to the voters. She did not plead for the people’s votes. In this case, the millions who watched her public display of arrogance could hardly be forced to support her husband.

In contradistinction to Grace, Elizabeth made a passionate plea for peace, tolerance and the avoidance of hate speech by political leaders especially those representing the MDC-T when she addressed thousands of supporters over the weekend in Sakubva and Mucheke stadiums in Mutare and Masvingo respectively.

On Saturday, Elizabeth took to the stage in Sakubva stadium and told the MDC-T leadership to address issues to do with maternal mortality arguing that it was disheartening to experience the death of women during child bearing.

She said that families who have suffered such loses expect the leadership to provide solutions to serious health problems especially in rural areas.

The crowd responded by a huge applause indicating that she was addressing real issues to do with common everyday problems.

Elizabeth also talked about how families have been destroyed because of lack of jobs and how women are stressed up because of failing to feed their families and the agonies they have of looking after unemployed husbands and graduate children.

She challenged Tsvangirai and his leadership to desist from hate speech and attacking political opponents and come up with solid programmes to address rampant poverty in the country.

The third issue she addressed was the issue of mandatory free primary education for all children.

She argued that while the state would assist parents by funding primary education, parents should then mobilise their resources in preparation for secondary and tertiary education.

The suggestion and the solution received huge applauses during the two rallies she addressed.

At Mucheke , Elizabeth summed up her message by urging people not to give up their quest for freedom by citing the story of Moses when he led the children of Israel to the Promised Land. He urged the supporters to continue to invest in hope and change. She pleaded with them to remain focused on victory by voting in their thousands on July 31. The Biblical reference received a huge applause from the supporters.

What is clear from the campaigns of these two ladies is that Grace is hurting Mugabe’s campaign through arrogance and failure to address real issues that resonate with public expectations while Elizabeth has been humbly pleading for votes by articulating how citizens would benefit if her husband is elected president on July 31.

It is also becoming clear that Elizabeth appreciates some policies of the MDC-T which are social democratic and seek to address the daily problems of workers, the poor and students such as the need to revive the economy, job creation and rural transformation.

In contrast, so far Grace thinks that Mugabe is a monarch who who is there to stay at State House. She also exhibits lack of understanding of the core issues in the Zanu PF manifesto.

She resorts to a mudslinging game in front of an electorate that wants solutions to move the country forward and not a slide back to years of political and economic decay that marked Zimbabwe before the formation of the inclusive government in 2009.

Going by the public outrage at the hollow elections campaigns that are marked by threats and hate speech, it is possible to suggest Grace could be hurting Mugabe’s campaign while Tsvangirai could benefit hugely from the clear articulation of election issues by Elizabeth provided she remains consistent.

The subject of morality that Grace dealt with was not strategic because she is not a saint either. The point to observe from this is that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. My hope is that her advisors drew some hard lessons from her misguided political outbursts that exhibited thorough emptiness.

Unlike Grace, the late Amai Sally Mugabe was a mature and compassionate woman. She was not involved in building mansions in a country engulfed by poverty. Sally was not involved in extravagant shopping sprees in foreign capitals unlike Grace who is notorious for that.

In short, Sally brought political capital to Mugabe. She was a source of fortunes and not misfortunes to the First Family.

There is a general belief among Zimbabweans that the death of Sally marked the beginning of the president’s political misfortunes as evidenced by the massive civil servants strike in August 1996.

The strike came after Mugabe’s lavish wedding to Grace at Kutama Mission the same year. The riled public servants were protesting against poor conditions of service and extravagant spending associated with the government.

There are other cases worldwide where first ladies were the source of political misfortunes for their husbands that Mugabe and Tsvangirai’s spouses should learn from, especially during political campaigns

It should be remembered that former South African president Nelson Mandela divorced Winnie Madikizela-Mandela when he realised that she was a source of political instability because of her scandals that had a potential to destroy Mandela’s political brand despite that she was an asset before that.

During the French Revolution in 1789, history students appreciate the political disaster in Marie Antoinette, the wife of French King Louis XVI when she allegedly said peasants should eat cakes at a time the country was hit by bread shortages.

Imelda Marcos, the wife of the late Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos was known for her corrupt activities and her unquenchable thirst for expensive fashion designs.

The late Zairean dictator Mobutu Sese Seko’s wife was also known for her shopping escapades in Europe while the country was engulfed in poverty and civil strife.

Other first ladies in the mould of Sally who were sources of stability and who contributed to humanity and world peace were the late United States first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She was a humanitarian, a pioneer of modern-day human rights and played a leading role in the formation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

As the country proceeds with the electoral and political campaigns, advisors of the two ladies should find time to counsel them with a view to making sure that they are not liabilities to the two political gladiators, Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

The same goes for the two gentlemen — they should address the economic and political issues facing the country and not dwell on sloganeering and hate speech.

Pedzisai Ruhanya is director of Zimbabwe Democracy Institute.

  • Squarebasher

    “Let them eat salt and beans” according Lady Mcbitch Grace Mugabe

  • YOWE

    stupid story

    • DJzacks

      Yowe you are the one who is stupid did you read the article at all

      • YOWE

        yes i did…and this is a stupid story asi ndiwe wakanyora here????

        • DJzacks

          No handisi ini but lets be honest pasina zvema emotions or bias. Why are you saying its stupid. I read it and i can see that the writer is pointing out the truth, shuwa do you think we as electorate we are concerned about how handsome the candidates are. Is it appealing to the electorate. Ini maonero angu, Grace haana message yaari kuita put across,tinodya kunaka here isu. Let me digress from the topicof discussion a little bit. I believe Robert has failed me and others for 32 years and i don’t think he should retain that position. What new trick is he going to do to change our predicament that he failed to use, do you think we still need kuudzwa kuti ndoda kukuchererai borehole or Damu. Mugabe has continously shuffled very incompetent ministers and corrupt ministers and replaced them with the same useless ministers who are also corrupt. I dont deny that sanctions are hampering our developmenet, but even if he wins how is he going to circumvent the sanctions that he has failed to use in the past 10years. Ngatisatukane lets debate

          • YOWE

            you got my point! in zim politics at the current moment i dont really care about who is the wife of a candidate…This is not a normal situation where the picture of the first family should be of concern as in American politics! These are rebuild or destroy elections so I am saddened that instead of having articles which critically analyse manifestos and policy we have things like these!!! To be honest i am going to be voting ndisingazivi kuti MDC-T iri kuti we will create 1 million jobs intends to do that how? How do they intend to restructure the civil service in light of all the corruption and failed service? You see those are the things which are important not what “the first lady” said or dresses….I feel sorry for my country because our politics is based on emotion and not logic

          • DJzacks

            Indeed every politician will come promising to create jobs. MDC-T, may not be able to deliver their promises as well after elections. However it is indeed easy to vote them out if they fail to deliver. What lacked in our country was a platform for the public to express their opinions, without fear. I come from Mashonaland central it was and its still a taboo in other wards to belong to MDC. So it is this fear that Mugabe has created amongst us which made our country to go down on its knees. You might have good ideas, but as long as its not what ZANU PF think then they deem you a traitor. A shift from the Mugabe type of politics where no-one even in ZANU-PF dares to challenge him to retire will be the biggest step towards rebuilding our economy. These corrupt and incompetent leaders should be held accountable for their gross mismanagement. For example if there are some allegations that minister Obert Mpofu is looting diamond’s money, why is it that it takes a century to allow an inquiry, why are people denied the opportunity to visit the Marange diamonds field when they want to access and investigate. If we say Indiginization haisi kufamba zvakanaka allow people to be investigated not kuhwanda neBritish and its allies that ndovatuma vanhu. Zimbabweans they know whats happening, but fear fear…. Tsvangirai is not intelligent enough to give us the same problem we are having with Robert, who has made a career out of politics, i can tell him in his face that you have failed and you need to step down but doing that to Mugabe will be a certification of death.

          • African champion

            Yowe is ryt, this is a stupid story. These writers must show respect to readers. Give me facts and analysis not stupid, shallow biased story……

          • DJzacks

            Tanga totopedza that chapter, about what needs to be addressed imi makungosimbira kanyama kasina muto, m not sure why you are still repeating what we dealt with already,We agreed with Yowe as to what needs to be addressed imi makati hamudi kusaririra. Pick it from where we left baba. Kwete kuti dzorera kumashure

  • Nkululeko Sibanda

    I think Sally Mugabe shaped Robert Gabriel but not the same can be said about Grace…..she insites violence and does say speeches…e.g.By saying there is no vacancy at the state house and also attacking Tsvangirayi saying he is ugly

  • Jo Mushaba

    Whoever wins, it’s guaranteed pane pfambi yatopinda machena. Kwahi madzimai Gire akaita zvinorova nanaGon, Pams, Makamba etc uyuwo Liz kwahi aikwirirwa paMukuvisi apa, ma1.

  • Thomas

    Your bias is ironic seeing as you accuse the ZBC/Herald o the same. On your pictures you perhaps rightly describe Grace as Mugabe’s mistress turned wife. Why didn’t you describe Elizabeth as Tsvangirai’s 3rd choice girlfriend turned common law wife after wedding stopped because he was already married wife? See?

  • Mapfumo Chimedza

    Iyeyu mumvana wedu uyu ndiye wamungaenzanise nechembere iyi here.

  • informer

    Great article! Well researched, presented and with clear referencing.. I hate Zanu PF but it is/was hard to criticise Sally, she was a great First lady-Par Excellence. But this bitch Graceless Mugabe is full of vanity, greediness, violence attitude and a mental thickness. Grace is definitely not first lady material, instead of restraining the blood hungry Matibili she actually encourages him to be evil & deceive.

  • Robert Machirai

    Grace will always be Grace, Sally will always be Sally , Elizabeth Macheka will always be Elizabeth Macheka and you will always be you so comparing someone”s else”s personality is highly misplaced. Elizabeth Macheka is a second wife hence she is called Elizabeth Macheka as the first wife is Locardia Karimatsenga. Morgan Tvangirai is a poliygamist who is a champion of abusing women so there is nothing that Elizabeth Macheka can try to fool us with. Morgan Tvangirai is the biggest perpertrator of violence on women. There is no need to hate Grace Mugabe because she married the President, if it was your daughter, sister, aunt or mother who had had that opportunity to marry president Mugabe all of you would have given in and grabbed that opportunity. Saka siyanayi naye. Yes Morgan Tsvangirai is among the most ugliest man on plannet earth and all the same Elizabeth Macheka was in the marrige for money and nothing else, to make matters worse Morgani Tsvangirai is HIV positive, but Elizabeth out of greed chose to risk her life and there is nothing special she is offering the people of Zimbabwe especially women because she too is a small house. At least Grace Mugabe has builtlorphanges for underprivillaged children and has used her position as the first lady to advance the cause of the less privilleged in society especially children with disabilities. She carried food parcels at all the rallies she went with her husband unlike Elizabeth Macheka who went to the rallies empty handed. Is it not Elizabeth Macheka and Morgan Tsvangirai who recently went for shopping sprees abroad and galloped over USD50 000, where did that money come from. She renovated her kitchen for over 500 000 USD where did that money come from. Its obvious both Elizabeth and Tsvangirai are stealing and yet most of their supporters are ling in poverty so hats off Grace at least her record is clear and clean and this does not make Elizabeth Macheka a better person. Hezvo kuzoiita mafalse eye lashes, Elizabeth Macheka suffers from an identity crisis at least Grace has kept her natural looks and she is a beautiful woman with class.

    • simon

      I wouldn’t harp on and on as you are doing here. You are bound to increase gaffes as you have already made a number. At times silence covers a lot of shortcomings, like inadequate knowledge of history and other issues.

      Amo 5:13 “Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time.”

  • Joseph Gumbo

    Its a pity that the person who wrote this article is a fellow-woman downplaying fellow women. Anyone in their right senses cannot compare Elizabeth Macheka to Grace Mugabe or Sally Mugabe because she is not a first lady, was never a first lady and might never be a first lady and does not fit at all in this group. Elizabeth is counting her chickens before they are hatched. Moreso, Elizabeth Macheka does not even have a marriage certificate as she is a third wife under the customary law marriage on the other hand Grace Mugabe is Mrs Mugabe as she is married under the Chapter 5:11 marriages act so the two cannot be compared. If Elizabeth Macheka was a clever woman surely she would have advised her husband and stopped him from making a fool of himself and her by going ahead with a mock marriage in the first place. This was a big embarrassment to the Zimbabweans and the international community which set a bad precedence of how desperate she was to get married to Mr Tsvangirai despite the prevailing, complications and circumstances around the man who has other wives.

    • worried ZIMBO