HARARE - Recent revelations that vice presidents, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, go for briefings with First Lady Grace Mugabe, with empty heads and blank notebooks is a clear indication, not only that we have dysfunctional government and state structures, but that we have a 91-year-old leader who has, expectably, abdicated his role and his wife is now running the show.
Sadly, President Robert Mugabe’s symptomatic loss of control due to his old age, has been transferred into the state and his boss at home (wife) has since, reportedly taken over control even at Zanu PF without being elected.
The resignation with which he talks about the domestic goings-on in his house speaks of a man who has totally lost it and resigned to the fact that his youthful wife has her way always.
Speaking to invited guests and close family members at his wife’s graduation party last year, Mugabe indicated that his wife, 42 years his junior, would always get her way and once she sets out to do something he could not stop her.
“She is headstrong; once she is determined to do something you cannot stop her. At times we argue, but for the sake of the children I have to give in,” he told the gathered guests and close family members.
Mugabe also narrated his sad story of how he wished his wife had more time to cook for him as opposed to the male workers at the State house who serve sadza which is not properly cooked.
“My wife cooks, only at the orphanage. It’s the boys (state house workers) who cook for me and it is a complete mess,” he complained adding that the situation is not helped by the high staff turnover at his home.
He added that the security situation made things worse since they could not hire professional chefs from hotels due to the strict security checks that need to be enforced on any new recruit hence they would have to do with those already employed at the state residence but it was these that would be recruited and frequently fired by the First Lady.
Is this the domestic domineering that the First Lady is now playing out in national governance and if so, it is unfortunate that there seems to be no one among the men in Zanu PF who can stand against this abuse of state power by Grace.
It made sad reading when Grace intimated that “Mnangagwa comes with a notebook, Mphoko comes with a notebook to listen to me. They know I am younger than them, but they appreciate that I am Amai and I have something to tell them about developing the nation.
“They will be taking down notes as I speak. I tell you, they will be jotting down notes as I speak so that the nation moves forward. I would like to tell them that I want that relationship to continue because that is the only way Zimbabwe can develop and become successful.”
Zimbabwe can never develop when we have a President, whose unelected wife forces vice presidents to unconstitutionally take orders from her and kneel down before her for political, governance and development tutorials as well.
No investor would invest in a country where power is transferred in such a manner and state institutions are run from the President’s bedroom and I wonder what kind of development Mnangagwa and Mphoko would be tutored by the First Lady.
There is one thing, though, that Mugabe revealed at his wife’s graduation party which can be used to understand this awkward behaviour by the VPs and the recent spate of expulsions in Zanu PF.
It is the fact that his wife cannot work consistently and long enough with subordinates and this has inculcated a sense of fear and insecurity on the President’s employees and subordinates who have suddenly realised that the only respite is in bootlicking Grace.
Her recent threats to oust Prosecutor General Johannes Tomana, no matter his transgressions, the spirited campaign for the expulsion of former Vice President Joice Mujuru and all those alleged to be linked to her, and the freezing out of Jonathan Moyo from Cabinet, if understood on the background of the high staff turnover in her kitchen, shows that she has forced her politics of firing “undesirable” elements on her husband and the president has become just a willing implementer of her emotion-ridden and impulsive politics.
Most of those who have once worked with Mugabe know how calculative, sober and fair his judgment used to be but now it seems all the pragmatism has been swept away by a new Tsunami encapsulated in his wife’s volatile temper and things are not being helped by the behaviour of grown up men like Ignatius Chombo, who according to party hierarchy, as secretary for administration, is senior to the First Lady, but find themselves kneeling before her in disgusting bootlicking antics that betray some hidden agenda, possibly to avoid crossing her path and be prosecuted for alleged white collar crimes committed during his current and long stay as minister of local Government.
It is known within Zanu PF that a lot of cabinet ministers have different corruption cases either in the courts, with the Anti-Corruption Commission or on the President’s desk or locker either at his home or Munhumutapa offices and chances are anyone who does not seem to toe the First Lady’s line might have their cases forwarded for prosecution since she is now calling the shots.
That tactic has worked with most of these thieving ministers and we gather some investigations have commenced on one senior official in the ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services on how he handled a tender for the digitalisation of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) which was awarded to a Chinese company.
Government sources indicate that red flags have started to be raised on the digitalisation deal with senior Zanu PF officials linking the construction of a stadium in one of the country’s provinces to potential abuse of funds in the digitalisation deal.
It is these corruption allegations that sadly most senior Zanu PF officials are implicated in one corrupt deal or the other, which gives the First Lady the licence to ride roughshod over these ministers no matter their senior positions in the party.
With a president who has publicly confessed that his wife tells him what to do, what to say and how long he should speak in public and at home, a home-controlled President, the most powerful position in our national politics is currently that of First Lady.
While many in Zanu PF, especially those who choose to understand our politics in the Manichean sense of the Mnangagwa and Mugabe (First Lady) factions in Zanu PF, have started to tout the First Lady as a potential successor to Mugabe, the reality is that the way things are playing out in Zanu PF, there will not be any Zanu PF to talk about post 2018 and this is good for this country.
It might be nauseating what the First Lady is doing, but in the long run, it is good that she is inadvertently helping in dismantling a dictatorship that her husband worked so hard to build and institutionalise in the last 38 years.
Given more time, adequate public platforms and her fervent pursuit of power, she might just be able to run down and dismantle Zanu PF in a few years, if not months and who knows, a new beginning, on the ashes of Zanu PF, could be what God has ordered for this country.
It could be the time for Joice Mujuru and her People First project and Grace might just have catalysed the demise of his husband’s dictatorship and inadvertently quickened Mujuru’s ascension to the highest office in the land.