IT seems First Lady Grace Mugabe is on a mission, a determined mission, to prove her critics right. Yes, the First Lady is proving to be an unmitigated political disaster.
echoes: CONWAY TUTANI
Can you blame those critics when she gives them ammunition against herself by going into a foreign land — South Africa — and causing a diplomatic incident of the most embarrassing nature? How often do First Ladies go about brazenly and viciously bashing a citizen of another country in that victim’s own country — like Grace did on Sunday?
In Zimbabwe, Grace does what Grace wants to do, but not in South Africa, where democracy is just a stone’s throw away from Zimbabwe. Yes, democracy is so near, but yet so far because South Africa is a world away from Zimbabwe in terms of civilised politics. Furthermore, for Grace, it was a question of being in the wrong country at the wrong time.
South African President Jacob Zuma has enough political trouble on his hands after surviving a no-confidence vote by the skin of his teeth last week. So, he will maintain a safe enough political distance so as not to be seen as directly interfering in the criminal case against Grace of aggravated assault or grievous bodily harm, whose gravity can earn one a long prison sentence. The wily Zuma has, as is already being seen, thrown Grace to the dogs, meaning he is allowing her to be criticised and attacked to protect himself from being attacked and criticised. She might as well be a Godsend to Zuma to divert attention from himself and his chance to salvage his political reputation. Didn’t someone say there are no permanent friends, but permanent interests?
But we ought to take into consideration that diplomatic immunity has been granted the world over for worse crimes. You cannot replace the parliamentary process with the legal process. Zuma has been losing in courts, but winning in Parliament. That’s why he is still President. The courts play their judicial role and the presidency or executive plays its political role. That’s why the United States has full diplomatic relations with China despite China’s deplorable human rights record. But what Grace has been subjected to so far is enough humiliation, a welcome development to change the toxic political culture in Zimbabwe. The law of unintended consequences — positive ones — could be at play here to finally unlock the political logjam.
Grace’s close aides, if there are still any, must have, by now, given up on her after resigning themselves to watch in silence her excesses. It becomes irretrievable when things get out of control and out of equilibrium to that extent. No amount of damage control will work. In fact, it’s beyond damage control. Indeed, it’s impossible to control a runaway train.
That runaway train came crashing into a Jo’burg hotel room. Every picture tells a story. The pictures of the young woman battered and bruised by Grace said it all. Her crime:
Partying in the hotel room with Grace’s adult sons Robert Jr and Chatunga.
In the aftermath of that train crash, Grace was nowhere to be seen. In the blink of an eye, there has been role reversal — from First Lady to criminal suspect. Her abrasive ways have finally caught up with her, as often happens. Yes, poetic justice has been done Even if she is spared the disgrace of appearing in the dock as an accused person, as is likely to happen after she invoked diplomatic immunity, poetic justice — when someone get exactly what they deserve, such as public humiliation and harm that’s befitting to someone who has done bad things to other people — has been done. Indeed, justice comes in many forms.
There is no moral ambiguity about it — what Grace did was wrong. There is no political ambiguity about it — was she did was shockingly undiplomatic and scandalous. And, last but not least, there is no legal ambiguity about it —what she did was brazenly criminal.
But let’s spare a thought for Robert Jr and Chatunga. Yes, it’s very easy to criticise and ridicule these young men, but are they not victims as well like their unfortunate female companion in the Jo’burg hotel, the only difference between that they do not have bodily bruises to show, but are scarred inside? Could their rebelliousness be a reaction to authoritarian parenting? What else can explain a mother striking so much fear into her adult sons? Says Wikipedia: “Children raised using (authoritarian) parenting may have less social competence because the parent generally tells the child what to do instead of allowing the child to choose by himself or herself, making the child appear to excel in the short term, but limiting development in ways that are increasingly revealed as supervision and opportunities for direct parental control decline.” Well, Robert Jr and Chatunga fit into that category. That’s why they can’t handle freedom and independence. It happened in Dubai; it has happened again in South Africa.
Continues Wikipedia: “Children who experience anger (and there is a lot of anger in Grace) coupled with the downsides of . . . inhibited self-efficacy . . . often retreat into escapist behaviours, including, but not limited to, substance abuse, and are at heightened risk of suicide.” This, sadly, largely applies to the Mugabe sons. They are crying out for help, not the angry and violent response from their own mother. But it appears the First Family is as dysfunctional as the State of Zimbabwe itself and no one is hearing Robert Jr, Chatunga and the nation’s pleas. With the right parenting style, Robert Jr and Chatunga could be perfectly good lads, not the maladjusted freaks they could turn out to be because of this clearly authoritarian overparenting. We know that both parents are control freaks. There is the real danger of replicating your office behaviour in the home. Likewise, Zimbabwe has been suffocated by similar authoritarian overparenting with a one-centre-of-power dictatorship.
Please, parents, let’s not flaunt and glorify anger and resentment — even in the heat of the moment at political rallies — as this may come back to haunt us.
How you would you feel if you win Zimbabwe, but lose your God-given children?
Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org