Open Letter to Zimbabwe First Lady Grace Mugabe

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I AM sure you don’t know me at all, being the First Lady of the Republic of Zimbabwe, not a dynasty, and somebody who is high up in society and has had the privilege of living a dream life in Graceland; whether in the sense of the lifestyle of the rich and famous in general or Graceland Hollywood-style.

Grace Mugabe

Lifestyles of the rich and famous presume a lifestyle somewhat different from that of ordinary folks like me.

That being said, your lifestyle defines the everyday actions, events and behaviours of a group of people who are not ordinary citizens like some of us.

For you and your ilk, the rich and famous, you move in top circles unfamiliar to us. You hobnob in close-knit and upper echelons of society with little interaction with the normal day-to-day world, hence you are sometimes detached from reality. People like you have aides, servants, drivers, cooks and gardeners.

Grace Mugabe being assisted out of a luxury car

Your needs and wants are catered for to a large measure by the state, meaning they are funded by taxpayers; in other words, we the poor. You have huge mansions, big cars and a long motorcade. You don’t queue for anything, you have diplomatic passports, you don’t declare your exports and imports, and you don’t go to local shops.

Your kids go to foreign universities, you seek medical attention abroad and go for holidays overseas.

Bona Mugabe graduates in Singapore

In fact, you live in the ivory tower in that sense and I don’t want to begrudge you for that although I have problems with extravagance and insensitivity in a land like Zimbabwe which has basically been reduced to a sea of poverty, largely because of our party leaders’ poor governance record and policies.

I still respect our leaders though in the true spirit of revolutionary discipline even if they have created conditions which have negated what we fought for and dreamed of at Independence.

At this point in time, let me introduce myself although I won’t tell you my full names because I’m a member of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, an organisation established by former Zanla and Zipra (that well-organised and ruthlessly efficient war machine I belonged to) ex-combatants who fought for our liberation and freedom, and also a member of Zanu-PF.

Besides, I respect your husband, President Robert Mugabe, as liberation struggle hero and my leader. As a retired soldier, I have enduring military discipline and still see him as my Commander-in-Chief.

But anyway, I belong to the Gatsheni Nguni/Ndebele clan which makes me a Ndlovu by surname. I live in Matshobana (one of the poorest and oldest townships sadly named after King Mzilikazi’s father) in Bulawayo, but come from Filabusi in Matabeleland South, and yes, I’m a Godlwayo umahlaba ayithwale. My father’s name was Muziwendoda (literally a man’s home and figuratively a strong home) Gatsheni Ndlovu.

I know this is not important and might be meaningless to you, but I’m trying to give you context so that you can then understand where I’m coming from as you read on.

I was involved in the struggle from the 1960s as a young activist and Zapu youth leader, that is before you were born. I’m told you were born on July 23, 1965 at Benoni in the East Rand in Johannesburg, South Africa, a year after our Zipra commanders such as Akim Ndlovu (no relation), Dumiso Dabengwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, among others, went for training in Russia following visits to Moscow by senior Zapu leaders.

I was there in July 1977 when the first group of Soviet officers which consisted of 12 personnel arrived at a Zapu camp, situated 18km from Luena, a town in eastern Angola (formerly Vila Luso), not too far from the Zambian border, to train our combatants.

The Soviet group had a mission to train Zipra fighters and commanders and spent exactly a year there, till July 1978. Up to 2 000 Zapu recruits came to Angola for training in successive two-month shifts. The Soviet military specialists stayed in the camp together with us and shared all the hardships with us.

In spite of all the adversities, they performed their duties in an exemplary way and in a year, the Soviet officers trained over 10 000 fighters to a company level.

Now let’s stop this history narrative before you start accusing me of harping and dwelling on the past and go straight to the point.

As someone who finished tertiary level education after Independence (we were disrupted by war), I closely followed and analysed your rallies since October 3 in Chinhoyi. From Chinhoyi, through Gweru, Harare, Masvingo, Mutare, Gwanda, Lupane, Bulawayo, Bindura and Marondera, I followed you closely. I don’t mean stalking or tailing you, but listening to you.

You spoke about a number of issues affecting the country and the party, which was good. At the beginning, I found you refreshing because of your forthrightness and courage to tackle some issues which usually in our party are not spoken about. You confronted issues and people head-on, probing them and demanding answers.

You refused to adopt the see, hear and speak no evil approach which most of us are used to as exceedingly disciplined party cadres and former military officers.

I literally clapped my hands, cheered and laughed as you spoke truth to power, attacking factionalism, greed, corruption and power-hungry marauders in the party, but that was up to a point.

Let me tell you the truth, First Lady; I started doubting you and your agenda when you got to Gwanda, which is not far away from my rural home. While I heard what you said in Masvingo and Mutare and began to be uncomfortable, when you got to Gwanda you lost the plot.

Let me get this out of the way quickly. I was outraged when you, unprovoked and needlessly so, insulted Ndebele men claiming they are good for nothing except for the purposes of procreation as they like sex, making kids and going to South Africa (where, ironically, your own father worked), while they are lazy and by extension of course, hopeless.

Now let me tell you, First Lady, that was ignorant, malicious or evil for you to say that, alternatively all this combined. You know very well what you said is wrong and irresponsible.

As an educated person, with a PhD for that matter, you must know Ndebele men, like any other Zimbabwean men, fought for this country and liberated you to have the freedom to say practically anything you want to, including waffling like that. They also went to school and are contributing to the positive development of this country and society better than you.

You really crossed the line First Lady. We suffered for you to enjoy the freedoms you are now abusing with impunity in a foolhardy and blind pursuit of power apparently to protect your private and family interests. I don’t want to talk about your husband for reasons I stated above.

While I respect you, and by the way, even if I disagree with you I will defend your right to say it to death, what you said throughout your rallies after Gwanda bordered on illiteracy, crass ignorance and recklessness. On some instances you acted like a political clown.
I sacrificed my youth and put my life on the line to free you and all other Zimbabweans. Of course, we all fought for liberation, but the truth is some of us went to the frontline and you didn’t because you were only 15 at Independence.

But for your own information, it was Chewa, Chibarwe, Kalanga, Nambya, Ndau, Shangani, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Shona and Ndebele men and women who fought to free this country from colonialism. So what’s your problem?

Besides, you hurled insults at senior party leaders and ordinary members uncontrollably. In your vicious character assassination, you neither showed self-restraint nor mercy. You were on the rampage, ranting and raving at our leaders, women and the youth, some of them older than you. What you said in Gwanda, Bulawayo, Bindura and Marondera left me convinced you are not a disciplined leader or cadre, but an intolerant and foulmouthed ambitious political amateur.

You were so trigger-happy and irresponsible in your emotive addresses; it was so scary. I consequently think you are not presidential material.

You also lacked emotional intelligence and coherence, let alone substance, and this left me wondering how could the party and nation be led by such a person like you who neither has self-respect, discipline nor vision? Arrogance and emotional outbursts spoiled your rallies, which like I said, I had initially found refreshing, progressive and electrifying. The trouble is you lack revolutionary discipline and experience.

Some comrades, especially in Zanu-PF and among war veterans, have put the following question to me: What do you mean by revolutionary discipline which I always preach?

Let me answer that here and now. I believe revolutionary discipline means the self-discipline of the individual, in this case a party member, in the context of agreed collective responsibility which is equally incumbent upon all concerned. It should be the guideline for members of that collective, leading to a dovetailing between practice and theory.

First Lady without discipline in the party, there is no way of undertaking any consequential revolutionary activity at all. We can’t move; the revolution will flop. In the absence of discipline, the vanguard cannot exist, for in that case it would find itself in utter disarray in practice and would be incapable of identifying and carrying out tasks of the moment or of living up to the expectations of the people.

Against this background, my conclusion is damning, I’m sorry to say: I think, politically speaking, you are an amateur and naive. To make matters worse, you behaved like a narcissist seeking self-gratification from vanity and egotistic admiration of yourself while displaying arrogant pride on television to the nation – a very bad attribute for an up and coming politician. 

Ask that veteran revolutionary RGM himself, a leader I respect so much despite my internal (not at rallies like you did) criticisms of wrong things he did in the party and country, he will tell you what to do.

Lastly, I found it unfortunate that you behaved like a power-hungry political predator and an insecure anarchist, with self-indulgent and vain propensities, posing potential danger to the party and the nation at large. First Lady, you need to pull back, take a breather, have some perspective and rethink your strategy. 

Source: The Independent: Written by GP Ndlovu

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