Bedroom Politics: Zimbabwe’s Boon or Bane?

Published on 14th November 2017

Zimbabwe has been in a political quagmire for a long time now. Its conflict gyrated around land and the intimidation of the opposition, among others. However, it recently took another turn after president Robert Mugabe fired his vice president, Emerson Mnangagwa, for what Simon Moyo, the minister of information said, was disloyalty and ineptness. He alleged that “the vice president has consistently and persistently exhibited traits of disloyalty, disrespect, deceitfulness and unreliability.”

Mnangagwa was fired long time ago when Mugabe’s wife, Grace, the power behind the throne, started attacking him openly in her race for power. She was once quoted saying “I’m the First Lady and Mnangagwa was employed by my husband. Why would I kill him?” Mrs. Mugabe added, “I am the boss,” as she was responding to allegations that she wanted Mnangagwa eliminated due to avert a peril to her ruse to inherit power from her elderly husband. This was after Mnangagwa was quoted saying “the medical doctors who attended to me ruled out food poisoning but confirmed that indeed poisoning had occurred and investigations were in progress.”

Due to the crookedness and spookiness of the power race, the issue was not whether Mnangagwa would be shown the door or not. Instead, it was when and how.  For, a day before firing Mnangagwa, Mugabe had asked, “Did I make a mistake by appointing Mnangagwa as my deputy? If I did, then I can remove him, even tomorrow.” And it came to pass. Mnangagwa was fired the next day. As if Mrs. Mugabe was pre-empting what was to come through a choreographed scheme, on the same day Mnangagwa was fired, Kudzai Chipanga, ZANU-PF youth league leader said that “the only person possessing such qualities is ... the first lady.” 

Mrs. Mugabe isn’t new to edging out those she sees as potential contestants for power. Before, former vice president Joyce Mujuru faced the same fate. She was purged unceremoniously after proving that she was suitable for the office.

Africa isn’t new to nepotism, corruption, abuse of power, bedroom politics and politics of the tummy. Just last year, in Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni appointed his wife Janet minister for education in his government; and everything seemed normal.  Former Malawi president, Bingu wa Mutharika, once appointed his widow Calista minister of Safe Motherhood. In the neighbouring Zambia, former president Michael Sata appointed his wife’s sister, Mariam Mwape Mulenga, ambassador to Turkey.

Looking at the CVs of all three presidents, you find that they have a college degree or degrees for Mugabe and Mutharika. To the contrary, their wives don’t have any. Again, you wonder how these leaders are manipulated. This speaks volumes about education in Africa.

Apart from some first ladies forming the part of their husbands’ governments, in some countries, they are treated like the presidents. In Tanzania, the wife of former president Jakaya Kikwete, Salma, used to be accorded top-level treatments such as receiving reports from Regional Commissioners and being driven in long motorcades.  In Kenya, the wife of former president Mwai Kibaki, Lucy, would summon ministers and reprimand them openly as if she was president herself.

Will Zimbabwe be Graceland soon after Grace takes power from Robert? How will Zimbabwe and Africa react? Time will tell.

By Nkwazi  Mhango 

A Canada-based Tanzanian author, Peace and Conflict Scholar, Alumnus of UDSM (Tanzania) Universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba, (Canada).

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