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Mugabe offers rare glimpse into family life

Flowers, silver cutlery, and a box of tissues adorn the spotless white tablecloth. The family says grace and “bon appetit!” before tucking into their vegetables.

Picture compilation by Tinotenda Samukange

President R.G Mugabe eating cake (file picture)

President R.G Mugabe eating cake (file picture)

Sitting at the head of the table, dad worries aloud about his son’s schoolwork and his daughter’s boyfriends, while mum chortles about confiscating the PlayStation.

This is lunch with the Mugabes, a surreal glimpse of Zimbabwe’s first family as no one has ever quite seen them before. Before the TV cameras Mugabe, wife Grace and two of their children declare their love for each other, discuss philosophy and religion, and laugh about the time Grace punched a British photographer. The result is compelling and at times jaw-dropping. Some might describe it as car crash television.

The gates of Harare’s secretive State House were thrown open to interviewer Dali Tambo, flamboyant son of South African liberation hero Oliver Tambo.
He gives Mugabe a sympathetic hearing and admits he is “totally” braced for the charge that he is sanitising and glorifying him just months before Zimbabwe holds crucial elections.

Indeed, those who blame Mugabe’s 33-year rule for their suffering may find it hard to stomach the climax of the two-part documentary which finds the president, dapper as ever in suit and grey tie with folded handkerchief in breast pocket, lunching with his wife and children in a stately room that once hosted the Queen. In a routine familiar to fans of his long-running People of the South series, Tambo asks his subjects to look each other in the eye and emote.

Wearing dreadlocks and a blue patterned dress, Grace Mugabe, more than four decades younger than her husband, takes his hand and declares: “You’re very loving, you’re kind, you’re generous, you kind of like brought me up and you know that I appreciate everything that I’ve been able to do.”

She continues: “I’ve tried to use [my position] to benefit the less privileged of this country, and whatever I do, I do it to complement the work you’re doing. I’m really happy to be your wife and I feel blessed to be part of your family.”

In a somewhat cringeworthy moment, a stilted Mugabe, who married Grace in 1996, responds: “When I said I wanted to marry her, I meant it. I said to her from that moment on if I had any girlfriends, I would leave them and that’s what I have done to recognise you and you alone as my partner. Whether you believed it or not, that’s what it has been.

“And I valued her, I valued the transformation that you brought to my life and the kids that you gave me and the happiness that they brought and the happiness you brought, and I remain very grateful for that. And that is why sometimes perhaps when you tend to be angry with me or perhaps I’ve not acted as quickly as you thought I should on certain matters, I have not reacted, I just kept quiet and allowed that to win.”

Mugabe has not finished pouring out his heart for the cameras yet. The 89-year-old goes on: “This is how we have lived. I do hope we continue that way and that our children also benefit from our oneness and that you also benefit from the little that you can learn from me, that interaction, and also even our relatives can learn from us how marital life should be, and especially the younger ones, so please continue to love the children but of course, above all, to love this boyfriend called Robert Mugabe.”

There is laughter around the table and Grace rises to give the president a chaste kiss. Earlier in the programme, of which the Guardian has seen a near-complete edit prior to broadcast, the couple share similar exchanges with their children. Son Bellarmine, who bears a striking resemblance to Mugabe and wears a suit and tie to match, says his father always makes time for him. “I also love the fact that if I sleep and I’m outside the blankets, he’ll come and tuck me in.”

Grace, meanwhile, makes merry as she recalls thumping a British photographer outside a five-star hotel in Hong Kong four years ago. “They saw us and started running towards us. I said, ‘No, enough is enough, why are you treating us like this? What wrong have I done?’ … So I ran after him and I caught him. I started beating him. He was pleading with me to get the camera, please, I didn’t answer so I kept on punching him.” There is mirth at the table.

The affair with grace

Dali Tambo’s late father, Oliver was close to Mugabe but it took him three years to land the interview, which will be shown in South Africa on the SABC3 channel at 8:30pm on Sunday June 2 .

His style might strike critics as fawning and sycophantic. But it does win unprecedented access and enable him to question Mugabe on everything from the 1980s massacres in Matabeleland province to starting an affair with Grace while his first wife, Sally, was terminally ill.

Asked what attracted him to Grace, who was a typist in his office, Mugabe blinks often as if holding back tears and offers a most unorthodox reply: “It was not just the fact that one was attracted. After Sally was gone it was necessary for me to look for someone and, even as Sally was still going through her last few days, although it might have appeared to some as cruel, I said to myself well, it’s not just myself needing children, my mother has all the time said, ah, am I going to die without seeing grandchildren?

“So I decided to make love to her. She happened to be one of the nearest and she was a divorcee herself, and so it was. We got our first child when my mother was still alive.”

Tambo asks if Sally, who died from kidney failure in 1992, accepted the new relationship. “I did tell her and she just kept quiet and said fine but she did ask, ‘Do you still love me?’ I said yes. And she said, ‘Oh, fine’.”

From herdboy through prison to President

Sitting on wooden chairs in the gardens of the colonial era State House, Mugabe and Tambo run through the president’s life story, from cattle-herding as a boy with a whip in one hand and book in the other, to dancing the quickstep and waltz with student nurses. As a freedom fighter against white minority rule, he was jailed for 11 years. “When you’re in prison, you say ‘okay, when we get out, these bastards, we are going to deal with them’,” he recalls.

President R.G Mugabe

President R.G Mugabe

Initially, when he came to power at Independence in 1980, Mugabe preached reconciliation but his reputation rapidly crumbled with the violent seizures of white-owned farms from 2000. For this he blames then British prime minister Tony Blair for reneging on promises of funding land redistribution made under the 1979 Lancaster House agreement.

“Mrs [Margaret] Thatcher, you could trust her,” Mugabe continues. “But of course what happened later was a different story with the Labour party and Blair and company, who you could never trust. You couldn’t compare them to Thatcher and the others  . . . Oh, who can ever believe what Mr Blair says? Here we call him Bliar.”

Asked about the condemnation he still faces for the way land reform was handled, Mugabe responds with a South African comparison: “They will praise you only if you are doing things that please them. Mandela [Nelson] has gone a bit too far in doing good to the non-black communities, really in some cases at the expense of them . . . That’s being too saintly, too good, too much of a saint.”

What qualities make an ideal husband for Bona?

Robert Mugabe warmly describes daughter Bona, a postgraduate student, as “very obedient” and “absolutely trustworthy” but chides Bellarmine, whose studies at a private school came to an abrupt end earlier this year. “He has not made me happy in the way he takes to his studies. He should be more serious than he is at the moment.”


Dali Tambo touches a raw nerve by asking Mugabe what qualities he would look for in a future husband for his daughter. Brow furrowed and voice gruff, Africa’s oldest leader would be enough to strike fear into any potential suitor.

“Regarding such approaches, one from a wolf who has come to seize one of my lambs — that’s the feeling.

“But it must be a person of her own choice. My hope would be first, qualities of a good husband will live with her, because he loves her through thick and thin and not just look at her now as she still is that flower, attractive, blooming. She will have kids and quite a lot of what is now the real charm will disappear and the face will start having wrinkles. So he should not pit her at that time against up and coming younger ones, which is what most people do and as a result we get lots of divorces.”

During the interview, Mugabe takes out the rosary beads that he always carries — “I went to war with it” — discusses God and claims he is still a Marxist, though not in “absolute terms”.

Mugabe misunderstood, ill-judged — Dali Tambo

During the interview, which lasted two-and-a-half hours, the Zanu-PF leader claims that upcoming elections will be peaceful but does not sound like a man ready or willing to let go. Banging his fist on an armrest, he unleashes the old fiery rhetoric: “There is a fight to fight. The British are calling for regime change, that I must go. That call must not come from the British.

The Guardian

Dali Tambo . . . . his documentary on Mugabe will air in South Africa on June 2

Dali Tambo . . . . his documentary on Mugabe will air in South Africa on June 2

“The sanctions are still on us and what man is there who, when his own house is being attacked, will run away and leave the family and the children still under attack? It’s a coward … My people still need me and when people still need you to lead them it’s not time, sir, it doesn’t matter how old you are, to say goodbye.

They will say you are deserting us and I am not a deserter, never have been, I never have thought of deserting my people. We fight to the finish: that’s it. I still have it in me here.”

People of the South makes no mention of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and will do no harm to Mugabe’s attempts to rebrand himself, which have already led to signs of a softening in western opinion. Tambo, who grew up in exile in north London, said his show is “not Hardtalk” and he makes no apologies for humanising a man he believes has long been demonised.

Describing Mugabe as “warm, charismastic and very humorous”, he said: “I feel, honestly, a pride in that man and I think that he has been misunderstood and ill-judged by a lot of the press. He’s made mistakes but in general he’s going to go down in history with a very positive perspective from Africans.”

38 Responses to Mugabe offers rare glimpse into family life

  1. chitoporo May 26, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    And this Robert Matibili Mugabe has the ordasity, the infancy, the cheek, to talk about morgan ladies.

    Tsvangirai didnt cheat anyone. He was a 100% widow who was searching for a new soul mate.

    This Mugabe cheated dying sally with his 25 year old O level drop out secretary Grace.

    There is nothing cruel than this. This might be the reason which speeded up an early Grave for the lovable sally

    • Viva R G Mugabe May 29, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

      Vote R G Mugabe 2013

      • Bob46 June 9, 2013 at 6:48 am #

        Why?! Coz of this interview never this has nothing to do with elections bro why putting that issue there?Its beta 2think where u a going 2get ur next meal than 4cusing on elections.

      • robobo June 9, 2013 at 11:02 am #

        “bon voyage” Mugabe …

    • Thandie Gwatidzo-Rizzie May 29, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

      Well, my hero’s detractors never give ‘themselves’ a break even when their backsides are are goofing on a gandanga with a machine gun, they’ll still be feisty and hopeful that a stooge will be ‘placed’ in power by their cohorts in the cold far-away lands infested by drugs and child prostitues..GET OVER IT PALE SKINS PLEASE!

      • robobo June 9, 2013 at 11:03 am #

        “bon voyage” Grace, Bobo and ALL Zaniod family members.

    • Uno Penga Iwewe May 30, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

      How is it cheating when he told her, albeit on her deathbed, that he has found someone else? When cheating you do not tell your partner? Bvunzai Morgan, ndosaka zvakaperera ku court.

      In fact akatopenga mudhara uyu ari practical. Akaona kuti she was dying and he had to move on. Zvekuti Grace is an O level drop out is very rich coming from someone who spells audacity in the way you did – odarsity. Ha! Unopenga manje Chitoporo!

    • Karikogagumirenyoro June 2, 2013 at 9:10 am #

      Randy old bugger…

    • robobo June 2, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

      still trying to impress us with his french ‘bon appetit’ and why this programme now 33 years after he came to RULE Zimbabwe ?
      Is he scared of something that is about to happen like CHANGE ?

  2. Soul man May 26, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    But yy do ppl feel sori fo him whn had an affair wth a married woman. Hw dz he feel abt hmself? He evn chased him away frm zim! Of cz he gve mr marufu conpensation bt still it was morally wrng. So the dictator admits he wasnt attracted 2 Grace bt jst tht “she hpnd to be near and he slept with her” Tht sounds terrible comin esp frm Mugabe

  3. Bob is my man May 26, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    Have some respect for your elders, understand the subject, and comment on it. Here is a man who said the same things in 1976, and still saying the same things today, this is what I call constituency and principle ( He wants to protect what he fought for, and must protect it even for those that have not seen the light yet. Mr Tsvangirayi, respect to him, but after a press conference where he was in line with Bob on gays, later appearing on CNN in London to say Gay Rights are human rights and should be in the constitution, really?? Who is he trying to please, can we trust our sovereignty with such? I say we can’t!!! Love him or hate him, here is a man who has the best interest of Zimbabweans, no to colonialism of any kind, including to neo colonialism, that’s what he means when he says Zimbabwe will never be a colony again, hear, hear, and hear again!!! Go through the website I have given above, you will understand Mr President viewpoint. The Brits never liked him because they wanted to impose their policies, understand why the Brits preferred Muzorowa over Mugabe!! I love this man, he is God given, to protect our dignity

    • miss november May 26, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

      well said “BIMM”, if we fail to see our President in the light u have put in, we risk highly throwing our peace and democracy to the age-old dogs in the west

    • Chinenguwo Murombo June 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

      It doesnt alter the fact that Matibili is an evil,heinous massmurderer who has been violently & fraudulently clinging to power since the 1990 polls.The man has been imposing himself on the ZimPresidency against the will & wishes of the majority of Zimbabweans.Matibili is so obsessed with the trappings of POWER!.Absolute POWER corrupts absolutely !.Matibili is a one eyed hypocrite who committed adultery with Grace ,the 1stShopper/Prostitute!.Both Grace&Matibili are evil&corrupt to the bonemarrow.Matibili lied with a straight face that when he hooked up with Gracie she was a divorcee,nhema idzo ,manyepo chaiwo!.Matibili is a chronic,habitual,pathological liar!Matibili `s policies have condemned Zim to the abyss&pits of hell.Matibili long condemned Zim to the dogs thanks to his ruinous policies that are devoid of logic& foresight.The Zimbabwean pple hate &despise Grace becoz of her penchant 4 lavish lifestyle,affinity 4corruption& lack of moral value infact they view Grace as a Golddigger bitch!.Matibili hasnt got the mandate of the majority of Zimbabweans therefore he is an illegal/illegitimate occupant at Munhumutapa/State/Zimbabwe houses.Zvichaperachete zvaMatibili zvekutonga zveJende by Ginya.

    • robobo June 9, 2013 at 11:06 am #

      you can “love” him, we the PEOPLE of a FREE Zimbabwe hate him and his zanoid party of homo’s like Kasukuwere and Moyo’s !

  4. juvenal habyarimana May 26, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    For me, wisdom entails analysing the situation and responding accordingly. i put on a jersey in winter, but if its blazing hot on a certain day in June (Zimbabwean Winter) i will put on a sweater. Its good to have principles as a human being eg saying no to corruption, murder, corruption etc, but when it comes to issues that affect other people there is need for compromise as we are different. if all of us stick to what we want in the name of being principled, i do not think the world will be a better place for anyone, as those with acceess to the levers of power will simply impose their will on everyone. Homosexuality is not and has never been an issue in Zimbabwe to people accross the political and social divide, There is nothing wrong in Tsvangirai resonding depending on the make up of his audience (Its called diplomacy) Anyway reconciliation was preached in 1980 but in 2000 we were told to strike fear in the heart of the whiteman… What do you call that?
    The british never liked him? Ha? to the extent of being knighted by the queen, training ZNA (as recently confirmed by nonoe other than sekeramayi!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    You are a fool mfowethu. You are free to support any party you want, even vote for egypt dzinemunhenzva, but some of us are not fools and take serious exception to be taken for idiots by people like you

  5. Soul man May 26, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    Its not abt disrepectin him it ws wrng fo him to want anotha man’s wife. It dznt mean if yr sekhuru kumusha goes afta anotha woman mbuya vachiri mupenyu dunhu, vana nevazukuru vanonyarara aiwakani! I feel fo Mr Marufu it must hve hurt his male ego. As fo Grace hameno kuti anodzwasei!

    • miss november May 26, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

      soul man…hauna nyaya…@ least he speaks for himself, that’s intergrity…vamwe, amanye amadoda r busy extending families nicodemously…a true man will stand by his actions…ko imi maSmall house amuinawo mangani? anozobuda selifile…wat a shame to some of the men in Zim…

    • Tozvireva June 2, 2013 at 10:52 am #

      Lt Goreraza not Marufu

  6. Soul man May 26, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    Miss november stop running away frm the facts! Ndiwe usina nyaya, u must luk at both sides he elbowed mr marufu jst bcz hes the president. Wat is wrng is wrng. PERIOD!

  7. Asijiki May 26, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

    Guyz Grace wz born in the Marufu family not married to Marufu bt Gorerazvo who iz de father of her son Russell.we must neva forgive RG for cheating our dear Sally.shame on him..lets vote him out this year to show our anger.RIP Sally Franchesca Hayford Mugabe

  8. Mpunity May 27, 2013 at 6:30 am #

    The ANC promised to assist ZANUPF in the Presidential elections. So they sent in their state controlled SABC to do the snow job on Mugabe.

    Quite frankly, they are blatantly interfering in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs, given the timing. The proof of this is that they have not approached Tsvangirai to do the same programme in the interests of balance and fairness.

    To hell with them!

  9. Matimadii Muchamama May 27, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    Was abt to reply n correct the ignorant pple on this page bt sme1 has done that for me already. This thread speaks to the dis-empowerment of women n shovernism that MDC supporters share with their leaders. This business of wanting to still hold claim to a woman after seperation, even if she bore your child is primitive and unacceptable. When R.G got with Grace, and even when she was inteoduced to the nation before the marriage she had long left Goreraza who was an abusive husband and had reverted back to her maiden name Marufu. Get it right!

  10. Kenny Konscious Chivizhe May 27, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    Mugabe is not a miracle leader ! He is a fighter and a winner ! Any of those people who have demonised him in the past and continue to do so now , are doing so due to abyssmal ignorance of our liberation struggle history and incapacitated knowledge of current affairs ! If you try and compare Mugabe and Tsvangirai one is an expert and the other a novice in the body politic. The other thinks is a democrat yet inwardly he is suffering from a crisis of defintion and is unfortunately branded a sell out. Mugabe knows he is a revolutionary fighter , and not a coward this he has amply demonstrated over the years of his rule. He stands firm by his principles even under hostile conditions. That is the leader Zimbabwe has always wanted depsite old age. Demonisation has galvanised Mugabe’s grip on power instead of weakening it. The very people who keep on instigating hate speech and campaign for his dethronement ironically stregthen his position.This country does not really accademics as leaders to bring food on the table. It needs practical men or women period.

    • Mpunity May 28, 2013 at 6:33 am #

      Kenny Konscious Chivizhe is trying to rewrite history by talking nonsense.

  11. Tenda May 27, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    Thank you Dali, am humbled to read about the first family. wish the same could be aired on ZTV. At least am talking my feelings.

  12. Zim Adverts May 27, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    We do not have time to listen to this we need solutions for Zimbabwe

    • CHAKWASI May 29, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

      If it was Barack Obama you were going to listen. Hate him or love him God still loves him thats why he is still a leader.

  13. MUNA May 29, 2013 at 4:57 am #

    so this IS airing in SA.. on JUNE 2…. where else? What other channel and when?

  14. The Professor May 29, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    Bob is a true hero whom we shall cherish forever. Who did not benefit from his policies? How many schools and hospitals were in Zimbabwe in 1980? How many are there now? The West have no option but to re-engage with Zimbabwe as they stand to lose out. Yes Mandela was to easy on the apartheid whites and this will rear it’s ugly head soon as it’s a volcano waiting to erupt.

    • CHAKWASI May 29, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

      Thats it ,the fact that he is still ruling Zimbabwe full of intellectuals shows that he is a hero. The whites were chased away and made a lot of noise but they are coming again without any invitation………………….Bob is a hero

  15. farai chihowa May 29, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    funny how people deny they are fascinated by the Prez, come musi wa 2 June @ 8:30 on SABC 3, all eyes will be on him.
    I respect the Prez & admire his integrity. can’t say the same about that bed-hoping, chubby fellow.
    yes Mugabe did land reform with good intentions. it’s not his fault when the people who benefited are not using the land. if they had the same integrity they’d return it to the government for redistribution to more deserving people. if everyone had played their part & if the programme had been successful,Mugabe would’ve been a hero. But he is a hero now to those of us who understand this man’s dream of seeing the black person empowered.

    • Tozvireva June 2, 2013 at 10:58 am #

      Not all of them. Some don’t have a Wiztec and some cannot access ZBC….. thanx to our dear leader

  16. lawrence whyte May 31, 2013 at 4:59 am #

    As a Jamaican male member of the Afrikan diaspora, Robert Mugabe has been my hero since the early days in the struggle against colonialism. Land distribution is a given in southern Afrika, though its execution in Zimbabwe was sabotaged.
    This presentation is a very welcome exposition that shows his down-to-earth nature, despite universal vilification in the west.
    Personally, I would have loved to see more Marxist principles implemented in Zimbabwe, if only for a season. Capitalism can be so unkind to poor people.
    Maybe the Ethiopian model of implementing widespread reforms systematically, would have been helpful for Zimbabwe. At any rate the country needs a leader of his caliber to stand by the revolutionary changes needd to put the continent on the path of real change, since my former S.African heroes seemed to have sold the country out, or have been bought out.

  17. Vhura meso June 1, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    Majaya akawanda arikunyora apa ma c10 ehurimende yezano. Vakaita iya inonzi pachirungu brain washed saka musateerera zvavanotaura. Vanamatirei vawanirwe nyasha naJehovha

  18. Razorman June 2, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    Wether maC10 or not,everyone has his or her lagal right to say whatever they want about the reports that we read in the newspapers.Noone has a right to criticise what you have said because it is your own point of view.Likewise,you vote for the person of your choice if you agree to to the principles of his party.This man called Mugabe refused to be used by the british to protect their interest or their kith and kin residents in here

  19. Yaora Zvino June 3, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    The Chinese and the Indians are worse than the British. Who is stealing our diamonds and in whose name?¿ Cant we dig our own diamonds?? Why are thieves well connected not being arrested? If u protect a thief u become a thief

  20. Dhikembe June 3, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    thanx Tinotenda for the compilation,but you shud have used the exact pics esp the current ones.But its ok Thank you thank you The Standard

  21. Philip June 3, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    Notice how Mugabe shakes his head from side to side all the time which revealing that even his own unconscious knows he is a liar.

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