HomeNews‘Grace should learn from jailing of ex-Ivorian First Lady’

‘Grace should learn from jailing of ex-Ivorian First Lady’

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LOCAL political analysts yesterday said the recent jailing of Ivory Coast’s former First Lady Simone Gbabgo sends a clear message to politicians fond of abusing power and trampling on the rights of the public during their tenure that they would be made to account for their past deeds once they have left office.

By Everson Mushava

Simone, whose husband, former Ivorian President Laurent Gbabgo, is still facing trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, was slapped with a 20-year-jail term by an Ivorian court over the role she played in the 2011 post-election crisis in the West African country.

Gbagbo’s refusal to accept defeat to the incumbent Alassane Ouattara in the 2010 elections triggered a transitory civil war that led to the death of 3 000 people.

Analyst Charles Mangongera said: “I don’t know if this holds any lessons for our own First Lady who has just entered the political fray, but my sense is that any political regime that tramples on the rights of the people to stay in power is living on borrowed time.”

Grace joined active politics last year when she became Zanu PF Women’s League boss and subsequently secured a politburo slot.

Along the way during her political rise, she destroyed the political careers of many people perceived to have been working with former Vice-President Joice Mujuru in an alleged plot to topple Mugabe from power.

Mujuru was immediately stripped of her government and party posts and replaced by her arch-rival Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Media and democracy scholar Pedzisai Ruhanya warned that any changes in Mugabe’s political fortunes could spell hard times for Grace as she had made more enemies than friends since she became actively involved in Zanu PF politics. Ruhanya said the factional wars in Zanu PF were still far from over and the Mujuru faction could spring a dramatic comeback.

“The Mnangagwa–Grace cabal has not yet sealed the succession deal. Grace will remain untouchable as long as Mugabe was still alive. A roll of big events can happen and fundamentally change the political terrain in the party,” Ruhanya said.

He added: “The fight is not concluded. The a are not yet out. Although Grace’s attacks on the Mujuru camp are simply political struggles, the Mujuru group may have their own day if they are lucky to rise to power. Obviously they will revenge.”

Former Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa and former spokesperson Rugare Gumbo claimed Grace’s influence had become toxic and she was the author of all the problems Zanu PF was facing. They made the claims in their court papers in which they are seeking nullification of resolutions of the Zanu PF congress held last December.

Dewa Mavhinga, a Southern Africa senior researcher with Human Rights Watch, said: “The jailing of Ivory Coast’s former First Lady is a timely lesson on the need for those in positions of authority to always respect people’s basic rights and desist from acts of injustice because tyranny always has a witness and there is no escaping the long arm of justice.”

He added: “For Zimbabwe’s First Lady Grace, a key lesson she can take away from this case is that if she respects people’s rights she will have no reason to fear a post-Mugabe political dispensation.”
Grace recently touched off a public storm when she displaced thousands of families at Manzou Farm in Mazowe to pave way for her private wildlife sanctuary.

Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya (MDC-T) said Simone’s conviction had the potential of hardening Mugabe and his wife’s stance.

“I foresee such actions hardening the likes of Mugabe and Grace to the extent that they will by all means want to die in office and in the process creating a de facto dynasty of the Mugabe family.”

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