To my sister & friend Thokozani Khupe,
IN August 2014, I wrote a public letter to then First Lady Grace Mugabe on my thoughts as she prepared to become the Zanu PF women’s league boss. I hope she still has that letter.
When National People’s Party leader Joice Mujuru had her congress, I also penned a letter to her. After her loss, I did one to United States presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. I do this also because writing is therapeutic for most women.
Sometimes we pen letters to our lovers because we think a letter can communicate better.
Other times I will write to my significant other and never give them the letter to read, but writing down my thoughts helps deal with my internal pain, so it’s possible that Thokozani could miss this, although I do hope she will read it.
Halala congrats to you, amhlope! Not that you have been elected President, any idiot as we have seen can be elected President or better can declare themselves President.
My congratulations are for how against all the abuse and attacks you have remained strong and held on to what you believe in.
Many of us would have buckled under pressure or simply given up, but you, my sister, have stood firm. I know that April 21 must have been an emotional roller coaster.
It could not have been easy to lose friends that have been part of your life for almost two decades, friends that you were with, in the trenches of the first constitutional referendum, friends you tendered to during the height of Zanu PF brutality.
I know it must have been painful to see and hear that you are now a traitor or worse still, that you are a Zanu PF stooge.
When most of those colleagues throwing stones at you were the first to run away after the elections in 2008, you remained to deal with a Harvest House that had been turned into a refugee camp with people who were not only homeless, but were screaming with pain from gaping wounds inflicted on them for supporting the opposition.
It must be painful to be blamed for things you have not done, especially because I have seen and heard you refusing to take the battle to the courts, and yet I read daily the attacks on how you have been used by Zanu PF to create the legal chaos when you are not the one who took the conflict to the courts.
The way in which you are being attacked for merely defending and seeking to assert your rights is astounding.
I also know first-hand how many women in the women’s movement, including myself, have sought to persuade you to take legal action over the numerous assaults on your person, how we have persuaded you to take these violations to the Human Rights Commission, and you have refused.
I know how you have angrily responded to me when I have said you are behaving like an abused woman who feels reporting an abuse is disloyalty.
I hope as you experience the attacks on you for merely defending yourself and seeking to assert yourself, you now understand that abusers by their very nature don’t reward you for being nice.
I am proud, though, that in all this, you have not sunk to their level and that in all this my friend you have remained calm, dignified and mature, in fact I dare say you have so grown in stature.
I have great admiration for you. I don’t know how you have remained positive, beautiful and feminine.
I watched you walk up that stage in high heels, in fact, highest heels, even I can’t do that high heel anymore and nothing in your face spoke to the pain and stress that these last months have been, it is that which I congratulate you for.
In our tradition, it is on the day of the wedding that the family takes you for some counselling.
Let me, as a sister, counsel you before you embark on this treacherous and challenging road to leadership.
It is easy as you attain the title President to conform to male behaviour.
I was happy to see that at the congress, you did not do the big sofas, that the boys club are now accustomed to throwing at us.
I find those chairs nauseating, to say the least, they are so wrong in every sense of the word, as they represent a big man syndrome and a disgusting sense of self-importance.
Please my friend refuse them.
Avoid those big, burly and rude boys that call themselves security. Other than the fact that they usually are so rude, we all know that it’s a desperate attempt at playing a pretend game, if you were to be attacked they would be the first to run away.
I know our politics is violent and you will need some form of security, surely there must be some security that need not look like you are running a gangster group.
Allow people to call you Thoko, it is OK. That way, title does not become a barrier to people being honest with you.
I love that you have a good number of young women around you, cover them, protect them, they are going to be under attack for choosing to be with you.
Remember, too, that some of the most vicious attacks will be from women. Just remember that many times, what drives sisters is not that they hate you, but that your strength speaks to their fears and vulnerability.
Always know that what they direct to you, is, in fact, speaking to their disempowerment. As former US first lady Michelle Obama said during the Clinton campaign, “When they go lower, go high”.
It does not matter my dear if at the end of the road you are not the winner, remember, what you are doing is giving blows to the glass ceiling it will not shatter with just one blow.
People like Clinton [first woman in US history to become presidential nominee of a major political party], Ellen Johnson Sirleaf [former Liberian President], Joyce Banda [former Malawi President], Mujuru, a former Zimbabwean Vice-President, and yourself are giving punches to that glass ceiling and with each punch, there is a crack. One of these days one last blow will shatter it completely.
Just be proud that you my friend have joined that league and give it your best shot. There are many other silent women who in the privacy of their huts and bedrooms are saying a prayer, hold on to those.
Finally, and I know this is hard for us women, because everything sits in our heart, you have to learn to unhear bigotry, sexism, misogyny, tribalism and all forms of negativity and avoid toxic people they drag you down.
When people spend hours on your case, it means you matter, cockroaches are comfortable with darkness any light gets them scurrying.
I wish you the best my friend and may the good Lord protect you and give you abundant grace. You go gal.
PS: I know this letter will invite abuse, but hey, I’ve been there, done that. I even have a T-shirt for it!
Your friend Priscilla Misihairabwi