Widowhood is no laughing matter. Oliver Mtukudzi could not have exposed the plight of widows any better than he did in his song, Neria.
He told it like it is — a daunting prison without walls. There hardly is an oasis for widows, even the church is no haven.
Widows are exposed to perils just as unfenced orchards are with passersby. Family, friends and society cast them at arm’s length, thrusting them to the trough than crest of life. They are segregated against akin to outcasts, no wonder my mother’s divine supplication is indelible in my heart.
Surprisingly, broken spirits sing sweet melodies; amid her meditation, she infused in me compassion for widows.
As one raised from a widow’s cruise, staring at my father’s empty chair and at my mournful widowed mother, writing this evocative article was obviously a walk down the well-known memory lane.
Lyrics to the song, Graceland, by Paul Simon were not written particularly with widowhood in mind, though the refrain nonetheless portrays their fate poignantly, “Losing love is like having a window in your heart, everybody sees you are blown apart; everybody sees the wind blow.”
Speaking at the memorial service of her late husband Retired General Solomon Mujuru, Vice-President Joice Mujuru underscored the brokenness of widows as she fought back tears. Her confession to missing him was sorrowing, so was her unrehearsed demeanour and solemnity.
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A window in her heart was ajar, exposing her being blown apart. Like all widows, she too is vulnerable; it was heartrending to hear a series of unsavoury utterances disguised as political slogans shouted at her. It overwhelmed me that her fellow womenfolk could be blatantly brutish about her widowhood.
Her ungracious foes at the Zanu PF Women’s League congress conspired against her, taunting, “down with those who burn husbands in houses”, implying that she had a hand in the inferno that claimed her husband. Despite being a cruel chant, no party worthy of respect can afford such hateful leadership.
Imagine how callous political rivals of President Robert Mugabe would be if they too were to chant, “down with those who shove brothers in swimming pools”, in reference to his late trade unionist younger brother Albert who met his fate in a drowning mishap.
Similarly, although it is an open secret that the First Lady Grace Mugabe conceived with the President while his late wife, Sally, was still alive, and that she came to State House via the “small house”, it would likewise be coldhearted for her rivals to chant, “down with small houses that snatch husbands”.
Politics is inherently fraught with conflict. Yet, the innate dignity of fellow humans must be respected regardless of entrenched differences in perspective. Even as Zanu PF consigns itself to the limbo of ruined reputations, there is no justification for cadres to be beastly toward others.
It is my fervent contention that if the General was still alive, huffing and puffing, and pounding the ground as he used to do, the scorn being shown his widow could hardly have been uttered. No one could have had the nerve to heap burning coal on her. Beneath the chorus for her ouster, accused of a speck in her eye by those with logs in theirs, widowhood contributes to her vulnerability.
She, however, ought to draw solace from ancient truths — sticks and stones are thrown only at fruit-bearing trees.
As the Zanu PF inter-party rivalry tailspins, it is singularly for her widowhood that she is reckoned as black bile. She is not filthy corrupt as alleged, rather, she is a soft target. With no husband to buttress her, she is trodden like a path of least resistance.
Given the polarisation and abuse of office in Zanu PF and government, not any has the purity to cast the first stone; all are compromised and short on scruples. It is futile to single her out as Judas amid the horde of fatcats masquerading as comrades. With provincial chairpersons falling from grace like dry leaves, inertia has plagued Zanu PF.
As blame and counter blame are traded, the party, devoid of the camaraderie spirit, has sunk into a self-harming eye-for-eye demise. True to Shakespeare, faults are in men, not in their stars.
And, with the suspension of Rugare Gumbo, who was at odds with politburo members including Mugabe, seriocomic personality clashes dog the party. Mudslinging has sunk root; the enemy is now within, forget Morgan Tsvangirai as cadres dismantle ploughs to forge spears.
As Grace enters the arena, in what signals to be the dawn of a dynasty, it augurs well for her to be mindful that politics, like the game of chess, takes a day to learn, but a lifetime to master. It is not a destination reachable after the proverbial thousand miles, but is a lifelong studious yet unassuming journey.
If Mugabe was contrite and sufficiently modest, it could have dawned on him that being First Secretary and President was a journey, not a destination.
He could not have clung on as if there was nothing else to aspire for beyond these posts. Yet, he held on staunchly like a selfish child resisting to outgrow toys.
Mugabe must long have said his goodbyes. However, buoyed by flattery as that of the late Antony Gara who said that he was the brother of Jesus, he gloated in false glory.
Amid the inter-party fallout, it rouses me that Joice Teurai Ropa Mujuru, a widow of a national hero, a heroine in her own right, is being expedietly forfeited in his full glare.
Mugabe has to earnestly plead with Father Christmas for the grace to retire than for sweets and biscuits. Leadership, like fish, is notorious for stinking from the head.
Cyprian Muketiwa Ndawana, email: [email protected] is a public speaking coach, motivational speaker and speechwriter.