Mugabe must not leave the balcony

HARARE - A few weeks ago, I recounted a conversation I once had with an old friend, William Bango, who is now sadly departed.

I had just taken up a new role and had done a few weeks when he approached me with a word of advice.

“Magaisa,” he said, “Do not let them drag you to the dance-floor. Stay up there on the balcony so that you have sight of the big picture. They will try to drag you down to the dance floor. But it’s rough and tough here. Resist the temptation to come down. Because when you come to the dance-floor, they will step on your feet and pinch your bottom.” He said it in his unique and inimitable fashion, with a laugh at the end, as was his trademark.

It was easy to see the moral of his image. There were people who were provoking unnecessary fights and it was easy to get dragged into those disputes and, in the process, lose sight of the strategic objectives. I have been observing President Mugabe’s approach to the factional drama currently in play in Zanu PF and it struck me that, as is usual in his approach, Mugabe has, so far, refused to leave the balcony.

Most observers have been keen to know what Mugabe thinks of all this political drama unfolding before the eyes of the nation. The politburo would have been the perfect arena to get Mugabe’s stance on this issue. The intrigue was increased by the fact that, after all, it was his wife who was making these allegations against his deputy, a deputy that he appointed in terms of the Constitution of the land.

Many questions have come to the mind of the public: Did he sanction his wife’s statements? Even if he did not sanction them, does he agree with what she is doing — publicly lambasting and humiliating his vice president and his subordinates? What are his thoughts on the clear breach of protocol by his wife, who publicly snubbed the hand of the vice president when she tried to greet her in front of television cameras? Had he spoken to his wife about these things?

When his wife spoke at rallies, she gave the impression that she was speaking on his behalf, indeed, as if she was defending him against an over-ambitious, devious, lazy and incompetent vice president who piggy-backs on him. She spoke as if she derived authority and sanction from her husband.

But Mugabe himself has largely kept quiet in public. He has not spoken a word about the issues that his wife has raised on her whirlwind tour. On the scandalous allegations against his vice president and his wife’s call for her to resign, Mugabe has kept quiet.

He has not backed her but neither has he rebuked her. No, he has not called her to order, as one would have expected of a leader of the government and party. It is beyond imagination that anyone else would have said the things that Grace Mugabe has said and got away with it.

This might suggest that either Mugabe agrees with his wife or if he does not, that he is powerless against her.

Naturally, most people thought the politburo would be the arena at which he would show his hand. But as it turned out, it was a flat affair as the matter was not discussed and was postponed to today. We are told that the outgoing chair of the Women’s League, Oppah Muchinguri, who has made way for Grace Mugabe, was asked to present a formal report on the matter. But we had the benefit of one statement, which the press has reported, which Mugabe is said to have made before the start of the politburo meeting.

“Ndimi makativambira mashoko kaimi kumadzimai?…apokaapo, the fire is on, manage it,” Mugabe is reported by the press as having said to Muchinguri, who has also been Grace ’s biggest cheerleader and co-conspirator in the political crucification of Joice Mujuru. To the non-Shona speaker, a translation of this statement would be, “You are the one/s who started this furore — the political altercation — in the women’s wing. Now the fire is on, manage it.”

Mugabe may have uttered these words in jest but they give us a clue into his thinking and approach to this matter. He was well aware that the waiting media would report his every word.

First, we observe that he is refusing to take responsibility for his wife’s conduct, shifting it instead, to Muchinguri and the women’s wing of the party. As a colleague has brilliantly observed in another forum, this is a typically patriarchal way of handling problems in an African family.

When there is a problem, the patriarch refuses to take primary responsibility for it and blames the woman of the house. It is not unusual for example, in the traditional set-up, for the father to blame the mother when their teenage daughter reports that she is pregnant. It has to be the mother’s fault. The mother must deal with it. Success is claimed but failure is shifted onto the shoulders of others.

Thus, notwithstanding the fact that Grace is his wife and that he is the leader of the party, he still refuses to take responsibility and places the matter at the door of Muchinguri and the women’s league. “Ndezvemadzimai.”

It is a women’s thing, he says to them. Therefore, deal with it. His backers will defend that he is right to separate family matters from the political. That may be correct but it flies in the face of the fact that Grace has been claiming authority to hold rallies and the validity and legitimacy of her political statements on the basis that she is the president’s wife.

Second, he acknowledges that there is a problem in the party. He recognises that there is a fire, which needs to be managed. But he does not want to manage it himself. Instead, he demands that Muchinguri manages it. But how does Muchinguri manage a fire that she started or at the very least, has been fanning?

How does she present a fair and objective report when she is part of the team that is making accusations against Mujuru?

How does she even manage a situation that she has been glibly stirring, along with her chums? It is clear that Mugabe is demanding the impossible.

He knows very well that Muchinguri has no capacity to manage the situation. But in placing responsibility upon her shoulders, he may, in some ways be communicating to her the futility of their campaign. It is probably a rebuke, to say that they failed to manage the issue.

Third, and more importantly, Mugabe is doing either or both of two things: first, he is declaring to all and sundry that he is not part of what has been happening or second, he is refusing to descend from the balcony. Mugabe knows that the dance-floor is a free arena where things can get tough and rough.

As the leader, he prefers to stay up on the balcony, watching everyone dance away on the dance-floor. Over the many years in power, he has persistently rejected attempts to draw him down to the dance-floor, because once he is down there, he knows that he loses the aura around him and that he leaves himself prone to the free and wild forces of that arena. He has already seen what has happened to his wife.

But more importantly, he knows that once he has left the balcony, he loses sight of the bigger picture. Once he is on the dance-floor, he is part of the crowd and he is no longer able to see what others are doing beyond the immediate group around him.

Mugabe knows that his wife left the balcony sometime ago and he has already observed the consequences of that decision — she has exposed herself in a very bad way. She has chosen a faction and in the process, has lost a large chunk of the party already, before she has even begun to lead.

It may even be that she chose her route into politics against his better judgment. These things happen in marital situations — a spouse makes a decision which the other does not agree with and at some point, the situation develops in such a bad way, confirming the other’s fears.

Mugabe may very well be unhappy with his deputy, but it is difficult to imagine that this chaotic and messy way is the manner by which he would have chosen to handle the situation.

The indications are the godfather of Zanu PF has chosen not to be drawn into this messy fight. Already we have seen that the patriarch is reducing it into a “women’s thing”, which he expects them to resolve. He might even find admiration in the manner in which Mujuru handles this adverse situation.

 

Comments (10)

Iwe wakafurira chematama, and when you were his aid, he suffered the worst defeat at the hands of ZANU PF, saka you can not judge Grace who instead is on the ascend. Tonhorwa wakanyarara ku UK ikoko.

reason - 29 October 2014

Magaisa, Knight, Ezra Sibanda, you thought yu would just come mosvikokohwa parimwa nevamwe. kkkkkkk. yo analysis no longer have any takers here in zimabwe becoz just like what Reason said you failled to advise Tsvangirai properly and led into an election that was clearly obvious that he would be annihilated.

What analysis? - 29 October 2014

I think Mugabe would prefer to remove Mujuru, but his problem is how to do it without splitting the party since the VP commands a lot of grassroot support in the party.Grace has also unwittingly widened Mujuru's support base within and outside the party by carelessly attacking her in public.Let us wait and see what happens at the Congress

dzingai - 29 October 2014

I see that many a time many people fail to separate issues. What Magaisa is saying has absolutely no bearing in his past advisory role to the former PM of this country. Actually his analysis is a very balanced and intuitive view of the current scenario. The wisest of humanity wouldn't have known the extent of the Israeli machinations during the last elections. Anyone who would claim to have had the capacity to know the outcome would just be a poor liar. Regai vanoda kushandisa pfungwa dzavo vadaro pasina kutukwa kana kushoropodzwa zvisina basa. These for a should allow people to air their views without fear of retributive comments

charles nyaradzai gono - 29 October 2014

I see that many a time many people fail to separate issues. What Magaisa is saying has absolutely no bearing in his past advisory role to the former PM of this country. Actually his analysis is a very balanced and intuitive view of the current scenario. The wisest of humanity wouldn't have known the extent of the Israeli machinations during the last elections. Anyone who would claim to have had the capacity to know the outcome would just be a poor liar. Regai vanoda kushandisa pfungwa dzavo vadaro pasina kutukwa kana kushoropodzwa zvisina basa. These for a should allow people to air their views without fear of retributive comments

charles nyaradzai gono - 29 October 2014

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GALLERYCARTRIDGES - 30 October 2014

Where is the up vote button? I want to up vote Reason and what analysis? for they have said what everyone thinks of Magaisa.

Yimi lo! - 30 October 2014

Yah he should stay on the balcony, but has anybody thought about this, he drops dead now, obviously Mai Mujuru takes over until 2018, has Grace ever thought about that or she thinks her hubby is immortal?

maita - 30 October 2014

grace mugabe like any wife speaks for her husband, everthing she says has been okayed by gushungo

Harare - 30 October 2014

mugabe has left the balcony

Harare - 1 November 2014

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