By Jonathan Moyo
Media enquiries have drawn my attention to a front-page story in the Standard newspaper in which the former first lady, Mrs Grace Mugabe, is said to have called on her alleged followers, presumed to be associated with the so-called G40, to forgive Mnangagwa, recognise him as President, pray for him and move on, as she and former President Mugabe have apparently done; after Mnangagwa hired a fancy private plane to fly Mrs Mugabe from Singapore for her mother’s funeral whose cost was fully covered by the government.
I’m told that the verbatim report which has prompted some sections of the media to seek my comment is that Mrs Mugabe said:
“Yes, what happened indeed happened. We must move on. We must learn to forgive each other. I have forgiven them. If the person who was affected the most can forgive, how about you? I’m talking to those who are busy attacking Mnangagwa, let us move on and support him”.
I extend my condolences to Mrs Mugabe on the sad loss of her mother, Ambuya Idah Marufu.
May her soul rest in eternal peace and the good God be with the Marufu and Mugabe families.
Otherwise I wish I had been able to convey my condolences privately and directly to Mrs Mugabe; but, alas, I was not able to do so after she blocked me from all communication contacts with her on 10 June 2018.
She did this in an angry response to advice I had respectfully and privately offered to her in writing, against her toxic and polarising wishes to lead the National Patriotic Front (NPF) in general and, in particular, against her then active but divisive push to be seconded by the NPF as a vice president in what had been proposed as a Grand National Union (GNU) of opposition forces ahead of the 30 July election.
My contact with Mrs Mugabe was slim prior to 10 June, and none since then.
The fact that the Standard article in question mentions my name, and that the media enquiries I have received have sought my comments on Mrs Mugabe’s focus on those she said, “are busy attacking Mnangagwa”, has necessitated my statement.
This is because some in the media have interpreted her comments to include me, if not targeted at me.
For the avoidance of doubt, and for the umpteenth time, I place on record my respect for former President Mugabe as our country’s founding leader and an iconic and respected nationalist and pan Africanist.
As a proud African, I have understood that my respect for President Mugabe does not mean I have no disagreements with him.
Also, as an African, I have understood that my respect for him extends to my respect for his family; especially his spouse, Mrs Mugabe.
I remain clear about this.
Reasonable people, more so among Africans, understand only too well that when we extend our respect for our national leaders to their spouses; that does not mean we are extending leadership qualities or responsibilities to the spouses.
In this connection, while I know and respect the fact that President Mugabe has legions of followers and admirers, not only in Zimbabwe but also across and beyond the African continent, it is news to me that Mrs Mugabe has followers.
I consider it an insult that some circles, especially in the media, refer to some leaders who worked with and supported President Mugabe as followers of Mrs Mugabe.
That’s not only false but it is also nonsensical.
Mrs Mugabe cannot be a leader simply because she’s the spouse of our iconic founding leader.
President Mugabe himself has said on many occasions, including during the funeral of Ambuya Marufu, that Mrs Mugabe could not have been his chosen successor because she lacks political experience to be a national leader.
Mrs Mugabe’s lack of political experience has always been self-evident and is known by everyone who has interacted with her.
The remarks attributed to her in the Standard story are significant only in so far as they betray her lack of political experience, and the toxic, polarising and damaging consequences thereof.
According to the Standard Mrs Mugabe says her so-called followers should forgive and support Mnangagwa, pray for him and move on because of two things: one that Mnangagwa hired for her a state of the art private plane to fly her from Singapore and paid the cost of her mother’s funeral; the other is that Mrs Mugabe claims to have suffered the most from the November military coup; and that if she forgives those behind the coup, then all the other victims should also do like her because she claims to have suffered the most.
Mrs Mugabe’s sentiments as reported by Standard are most unfortunate.
They are unfortunate because they are false and insensitive.
People who are national leaders or who aspire for national leadership must, above everything else, be truthful and sensitive.
This is a fundamental human quality that has eluded politics in Zanu PF which remains dominated by the old-guard and stockholder mentality of entitlement for selected individuals and their families.
Not only Zanu PF but the country is then supposed to be synonymous with these individuals and their personal and family interests.
If these individuals and their families are fine, Zimbabwe must also be fine.
It is an absurd corruption of public morality, values and ethos for Mrs Mugabe to claim that Mnangagwa’s gesture to hire a fancy private plane to fly her from Singapore and to pay for her mother’s funeral constitutes a political paradigm for the country to move on.
Narcissism cannot be the basis for politics.
Mrs Mugabe was indeed well within her rights to thank Mnangagwa for assisting her family at a time of need, but she had no rhyme or reason or right to turn that into a national cause.
Even worse, it is shocking to hear that Mrs Mugabe claims to be the one person who was affected the most by the November military coup.
Honestly? On what basis does she make this insensitive claim?
Is she aware what happened to Dr Ignatius Chombo and his wife?
Is she aware what happened to Kudzai Chipanga?
Is she aware what happened to thousands and thousands of Zimbabweans who were internally and externally displaced?
Is she aware of Zimbabweans whose homes and sources of livelihood were destroyed?
How about Zimbabweans who were tortured and killed?
Has she heard of Peter Munetsi and how he lost his life?
Has she heard of the ordeal that Mrs Munetsi and her family went through?
Does she care about how these victims of the coup have fared since that fateful November day?
What does she think moving on means for these people?
Does she think it just means hearing that she has been flown in a fancy private plane by Mnangagwa who also ordered the government to foot the bill of her mother’s funeral?
Is that what it is all about? Has Mrs Mugabe thought about how Mrs Munetsi and her family struggled to bury her husband?
On 29 July 2018, Mrs Mugabe was urging Zimbabweans to vote for Nelson Chamisa.
Two days later, on 1 August 2018, soldiers whose commander-in-chief was Mnangagwa killed in cold blood at least 10 unarmed civilians, most of whom were fleeing, by shooting them in the back.
Many more were injured, some of them critically. The demonstrators were protesting the election theft that was underway on that day on Mnangagwa’s behalf.
Does Mrs Mugabe know the names of these victims?
Does she know how the massacred victims were buried?
Did Mnangagwa provide transport to these victims?
Did he pay for the funerals? Did he pay the medical bills for the hospitalised victims? Does Mrs Mugabe care about all this, or she just wants everyone to move on, simply and only because she has moved on after receiving Mnangagwa’s largesse?
It is important for those who claim to be national leaders to show some empathy with, and understanding of, the plight of the ordinary person.
It is important to be truthful; to be honest.
It is important to be sensitive. It is important to have a sense of proportionality.
It is important to be humble. It is important to be grounded.
It is important to have principles. It is important to be with the people and for the people.
Mrs Mugabe can move on with Mnangagwa.
But the people are not going to be part of that movement.
The people are moving in a different direction. Their vote was stolen.
Their compatriots were murdered in cold blood and some were maimed; and their livelihoods were destroyed. This happened last month. The victims are still crying for justice.
Decent Zimbabweans want to see justice done; and they want to see the people’s vote respected.
If Mrs Mugabe’s association with the so-called G40 was genuine and grounded in the real world, she would have been aware that young people are sick and tired of the self-indulgent, self-centred, and self-serving politics of individuals who think only they are entitled to Zimbabwe’s political power and resources because of who they are in history, marriage, parentage or relationally.
The time has gone for Zanu PF’s old-guard and stockholder politics of entitlement for individuals and their families who claim to have fought the liberation struggle alone, died in it alone, and who must enjoy the fruits of independence alone.
That time is gone.
Mrs Mugabe will be well advised to understand that, going forward, there’s need for mutual respect to enable mutual understanding.
And the basis for that is respect for the country’s new Constitution enacted in 2013.
As a citizen, Mrs Mugabe is free to associate and support Mnangagwa or whomever she chooses as her constitutional right, other Zimbabweans will exercise the same right—using the same freedom— without reference to her.
Prof Jonathan N Moyo