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Feature: Tale of two first ladies

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BY PROBLEM MASAU
FORMER First Lady Grace Mugabe’s penchant for the finer things in life is well documented. The once powerful lady grabbed headlines around the world for her extravagant shopping, earning herself the moniker: Gucci Grace. Grace was unapologetic about it by wearing expensive costumes and using the best cologne that money could buy.

After her, in came Auxillia Mnangagwa who has tried to be the opposite of her predecessor, often portraying a picture of being motherly and humble and each time she appears in public, Auxillia always wears long apparel giving a picture of someone who has moderate taste. However, behind the gowns, the First Lady is proving to be walking in the footsteps of Grace.

First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa

Fiery temper 

Grace Mugabe is well remembered for her short temperament. Grace has an outstanding warrant of arrest in South Africa for allegedly assaulting a model in 2017. South Africa’s government was criticised for letting the former first lady leave the country after the alleged assault. Gabriella Engels accused Grace of beating the hell out of her with an electric cord in a hotel room in Johannesburg. And Engels crime: Dating Grace’s son Chatunga. But Grace denied the charge saying she attacked Engels in self defence.

The former first lady was also in court in 2019 facing a charge of beating up her former housekeeper Shupikai Chiroodza. The former housekeeper accused Grace of striking her all over her body with shoes.

Sources in government and Auxillia’s office told NewsDay that the current First Lady also has a fiery temper that has seen most Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) aides being either chased away or returned to base.

“Amai (Auxillia) is always out doing her philanthropic work, so it means a lot of allowances for the aides. However, most aides do not want to be near the First Lady because of her temper. She has serious mood swings,” said the source.

Love for positive coverage

At her peak before the spectacular fall of her late husband Robert Mugabe in 2017, Grace went on a tirade at political rallies that were often broadcast live on national television. During those rallies, the former first lady used every opportunity to attack her political foes. She earned herself another moniker: Dr Stop It because of her constant use of the phrase: Stop it.

Auxillia’s love for positive coverage is, meanwhile, reportedly proving to be unmatched. The First Lady has a dedicated team of State media reporters who follow her wherever she goes. On Tuesday, one of the State papers had an unprecedented seven pictures of an event she afficiated on a single page.

“She is obsessed with the media. She does not like journalists from the private media because she cannot tame them. Often, she personally chooses the pictures to be used in the newspaper. Look at the superlatives that are used to describe her in State media,” said one of the reporters at a State media stable.

Philanthropic work

Grace used her orphanage in Mazowe to spruce up her image. She would often invite dignitaries, among them first ladies of different countries, to pat her on the back.

Auxillia has also followed Grace’s footsteps through her Angel of Hope Foundation. Auxillia has transcended the whole country using State resources to promote her philanthropic work. And bootlickers have often praised her for her “angelic” work.

“I want to thank God for such a mother. She has a gift of giving from the heart,” said Blessing Chebundo, a former MDC legislator who has since defected to Zanu PF.

Controversial PhDs and the love for titles

Grace Mugabe was controversially awarded a PhD by the University of Zimbabwe. The former first lady immediately assumed the title Dr Amai which she carried with vigour and authority. The scandal later cost former University of Zimbabwe vice-chancellor Levi Nyagura his job. Auxillia has also followed in Grace’s footsteps after getting an honorary PhD from a top private university in Delhi, India. State media has started referring to her as Dr Amai.

“Today is a very special day for me as I am receiving the highest academic honour bestowed unto me, that of an honorary Doctorate in Philosophy by the esteemed GD Goenka University. To be awarded such a prestigious endorsement from a world-class institution such as GD Goenka is something that I do not take lightly but rather hold close to my heart endearingly. The doctorate awarded to me is recognition, a realisation and, indeed, a fulfilment of what I had always dreamt of,” Auxillia said early this month when she was awarded the doctorate this month.

The two first ladies rose to prominence after working as government secretaries and marrying powerful men. Grace had a 41-year age difference with Mugabe while Auxillia has a 21-year age difference with President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

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