ONE would have thought that after her misadventure in South Africa two weeks ago — where she viciously lashed Gabriella Engels, a female companion of her sons, in a hotel room — First Lady Grace Mugabe would lie low and self-introspect in self-reproach.
echoes: CONWAY TUTANI
Grace’s volcanic temper and public show of anger was always going to get her into deep trouble. It was inevitable except to her cheerleaders and blind followers. “A quick temper will make a fool of you soon enough,” said the late martial arts expert and actor Bruce Lee.
But, alas, Grace, back in her playground in Zimbabwe, was back to her old ways again this week as her supporters marched in solidarity with her screaming her innocence to high heaven when her brutal handiwork is plain for all to see in the authentic — not photoshopped — pictures of her actual — not alleged — victim. The rank ignorance displayed by the marchers was most shocking, as shown on one placard inscribed “Masvingo yati Engels haasi ngirozi (Masvingo says Engels is not an angel)”. So what? Not to say that Engels is a prostitute, as Grace’s desperate backers are claiming, and without being judgmental about Engels’ lifestyle choice, if you assault a prostitute, whether in Johannesburg, Juru or Jahunda, you will be arrested and prosecuted. That’s why you still go to jail if you rape a prostitute.
What is most frightening is that Grace — it’s most difficult to continue referring to her as First Lady after the hotel incident — does not appear to be remorseful at all. How can one, even in their absence, have a march in their support after committing such a crime with “guilty” written all over it? And how can one, before the dust has settled, have villagers evicted and left homeless, as damningly documented by the State-appointed Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission itself, to make way for the expansion of her already huge business empire? Is there a pattern of manipulating, glibness, exploiting, arrogance, delusions of grandeur, disregard for morality, lack of acceptance of responsibility, lack of empathy or remorse?
And her backers are equally not remorseful. They are behaving as if it’s them who have been wronged whereas they are the ones in the wrong. Criminologists — those experts who specialise in studying crime and criminals, especially their behaviour — have a special term reserved for such people: psychopath. A psychopath is a one with a personality disorder indicated by a pattern of lying, cunning, manipulating, arrogance, delusions of grandeur, lack of acceptance of responsibility for one’s actions. And the core leaders of those marchers, many of them from the criminal underworld, fall into the psychopath category. They have known no other life than that of hustling. They can be quickly assembled at short notice because they are basically layabouts. They have all the time on their hands. That’s why it’s said idle minds are the devil’s playground. They are there for hire to the highest political bidder, who happens to be you know you with all the State resources — including diamonds — at their disposal.
There were other pitiful elements among the marchers: Those people who cannot think for themselves. Such people are no different from the religious fanatics in India who went on a murderous rampage that left at least 36 dead and hundreds injured after their spiritual guru was justly jailed 20 years for rape last week. A sane, rational person would be enraged on behalf of the victim, not victimiser. But those marching in support of Grace cannot be sane or rational. Their actions are due to downright ignorance about the real issues at play. To them, everything done by a higher authority is automatically right and justified. They have such low esteem of themselves that they hold power in awe. As for their rage against Grace’s victim, Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler (1870-1937) said: “We must interpret a bad temper as a sign of inferiority.”
Instead of being embarrassed with Grace, these pitiful souls get angry on her behalf. Some of them are victims of obsession — pursuing one activity to the absolute or nearly absolute exclusion of all others or everything else. The obsession with Grace has taken over their lives. This is the stuff fundamentalists are made of.
We also find this obsession in sport where it blinds rabid fans from accepting that their team can be beaten like other teams. They will contrive to blame the other team for violence caused by their fans.
Another thing: When people adore Grace, are they really seeing her for what she is? Are they over-awed by the aura of power surrounding her? Are they mistaking her personality for her actual character? Character, as studies show, is closely related to moral and ethical values. It is the true self. On the other hand, personality is often referred to as the mask identity of a person. It is reflected by the outer appearance and behaviour that may or may not be true to the inner character. Said celebrated English writer W Somerset Maugham: “When you choose your friends, don’t be short-changed by choosing personality over character.”
Matters are not helped by the fact that Grace’s adult audience, including senior politicians, behave like gigglesome teenage girls. Even when she cracks an unfunny joke or even one in bad taste, they are suddenly seized with a bad case of giggles or silly laughter or, as they say in Shona, kukekedzera. It’s really unbelievable. Nothing beneficial to the nation can come out of that.
This week, we had fawning headlines in the State media like “Cross-border traders express gratitude to First Family” and “First Lady embarks on poultry training project”, as the official propaganda drive to rehabilitate Grace went into overdrive. But, to fair-minded people, she crossed the line in South Africa. She is now beyond the pale, beyond the bounds of good behaviour or judgment in civilised company. What she did cannot be celebrated. She showed she cannot handle power.
Things have gone from bad to worse, as they often do when political amateurs like Grace are involved in an activity they perform in bad temper and in undue haste.
So, can we afford to indulge Grace any longer? Should she still be allowed to do or have whatever she wishes?
This hard-won country must not be brought to a standstill just to accommodate an individual’s each and every whim.