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
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.