In Act 1, Scene 5 of one of William Shakespeare’s best works, Macbeth, the soon-to-be First Lady of Scotland, Lady Macbeth — a controversial and exceedingly ambitious character — silently plots her way to the top.
She views her husband as too soft to deal with matters separating them from “greatness”. He is “too full of the milk of human kindness”. So she calls upon spirits of darkness to strengthen her to a point where they would “unsex me here” — to strip her of womanhood and feminine weakness and transform her into a man with masculine resolve and a hard heart.
To Lady Macbeth, the “milk of human kindness” is distasteful stuff — no self-respecting man has any use for it.
She says: …“unsex me here, make me less like a woman and more like a man, and fill me from head to toe with deadly cruelty! Thicken my blood and clog up my veins so I won’t feel remorse…”
“… Come to my female breast and turn my mother’s milk into bile… Come, thick night, and cover the world in the darkest smoke of hell, so that my sharp knife can’t see the wound it cuts open…”
And, while goading her hesitant husband, Macbeth, she insists that, if she had sworn to do it, she wouldn’t have hesitated to take her own baby “while it was smiling in my face” and to “have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums, and dash’d the brains out.”
I read Macbeth in 1982 as I got introduced to literature at O’Level, and the character of Lady Macbeth has always come to mind whenever I listen to Zimbabwe’s First Lady Grace Mugabe savaging her enemies at public rallies.
The First Lady becomes so sharp tongued the words that come out of her mouth can hardly be associated with motherliness or anything feminine. Her words, sharp and brutal, are full of the Shakespearean “bile” — completely devoid of the “milk of human kindness”.
She has not hidden too, that her husband, President Robert Mugabe, is “too full of the milk of human kindness”, something she says she can never be.
She said this during her recent mutilation of Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“My husband, President Mugabe is able to listen while being told lies. He has so much wisdom and forgiveness. Now for me, I don’t have time for that kind of patience,” she said.
“How can you lie to me! Me, of the Monkey totem? Me who appointed you into your position? Ahh not me, I will kick you out right away and I mean it!
“But I saw him, Gushungo, the son of Bona [Mugabe] listening and I said to myself, this man is blessed. I know for myself that God will never give me such patience. In fact, I think I need to ask my mother if she got me from Satan. [Ndotoda kunobvunza mai vangu kuti makandiwana kwaSatan here?],” the First Lady said.
Grace loves to parade her ruthless nature to the public and is very proud of the “thick blood that clogs her veins to prevent her from feeling remorse”. She loves to use words that tell everybody that she is totally “unsexed” and that her “breast milk has been transformed into bile”.
“When I put my mind to attacking, I will thump you openly and hard,” she ranted. “I will crush your head and not hide the weapon!” (Imbwa iripo apo handivige mupini, ndoiponda nemupini inini).
This is hardly the language expected of a woman, or a mother, or a First Lady who then declares to the same public she is their mother — (“I am the Mother of the Nation”)
The First Lady also appears to possess a profoundly unrestricted tongue laced with crude, obscene traits — again totally at variance with the person of her standing. The bad thing is that this First Lady tongue loves to do its lurid lashing in public and in front of schoolchildren.
She spoke of miniskirts, seduction, sex and nice legs as she dug Joice Mujuru’s grave at the Zanu PF cemetery in 2014. She also spoke of her brutal power, calling herself a bouncer [monya] for hire.
At Kanyemba secondary school two weeks ago, she spoke about prostitution and romance to little children who should not be even imagining that the wife of the country’s president could be accused of being a harlot! “Handisi hure raMugabe ini.” [I am not Mugabe’s prostitute].
Adult language was spewed carelessly to bemused children who were then further abused with political hate language by insensitive grown-ups in the name of political tutelage.
Addressing Mashonaland Central provincial governor-cum-lawyer, Martin Dinha, who had just made an embarrassing spectacle of himself, kneeling on both legs to worship her, Grace said:
“The governor is a love scientist… What remains is for him to teach men to wash their mouths before kissing since kissing is becoming the in-thing!”
And then this: “If Mugabe was someone who slept around, he would have children all over the country. We don’t speak about the thousands of children you have sired around the country but you want to expose others.
“Mugabe married me nicely as his second wife. I’m not Mugabe’s whore as you’re always saying! How many prostitutes have you bedded and whom you’re still sleeping with?”
Grace told the thousands of listeners — including children — that governor Dinha had just assured her that he had stopped sleeping around after she had warned him that prostitution would kill him.
“Ataura Dinha kuti ndazvisiya. Ndakataura naye kuti unofa iwe! Unokunguruka kuita manhede.”
The First Lady then fired a salvo at Security Service Chiefs, accusing them of being involved in the recent bomb attempt at the Mugabes’ dairy factory, before declaring she is the one ruling Zimbabwe whether or not people liked her.
“Anenge asvotwa, ngaasvotwe, agorutsa. Anorutsa kusvika afa nekuti basa ndichariita. …The issue iyoyi yokuti hanzi munorongana motorana nemasoja kunobomber [whoever does not like it can vomit until they die because I will continue to do the job. Conspiring with soldiers to bomb], will not work.”
And then she made the most damning accusation — that there is a plot to kill her last born son, Chatunga Bellarmine!
“Don’t play around with me… threatening me! I’m not your friend! Just imagine, can we get to a stage where they plan to kill my child Bellarmine? Is it fair, should I smile at you?” she seethed.
In my view, our First Lady could do much better than her present self. Grace is just too angry, too emotional, too rash, reckless with words, too ambitious, too suspicious and too brutal in nature for the person of a First Lady.
We would expect our First Lady to be first and foremost, ladylike. She needs to be civil in how she treats others and to show respect, restraint and personal responsibility, especially when she presents herself in public.
The Mother of the Nation should be kind, tactful with words and free of cheap gossip. She must be a well-spoken individual and a generous listener who is gracious and inclusive.
Continuing with this hurricane personality can only earn Grace the iron lady; Lady Macbeth reputation, which Zimbabwe can do without.