SOMEWHERE in the obscure annals of Shona folklore is a nugget of ancient wisdom which counsels against behaving like a lunatic who has picked up a whistle.
Sunday Opinion with Desmond Kumbuka
(Usaite sebenzi ranhonga pito) The logic is quite simple really.
If an insane person acquires a whistle, (that thumb-sized instrument that emits a shrill high-pitched sound when blown) and somehow discovers he can create such a din that is likely to make him the centre of attraction, there is no guessing what he or she will do with it.
The whistle, although designed to make the high-pitched sound, is certainly not your conventional musical instrument. Its uses are ordinarily limited to soccer refereeing and prompting of other sporting activities.
Outside these uses, the whistle is deafening and irritating, which is why in the hands of a mad person, it becomes a veritable nuisance.
Over the last few weeks, Zimbabweans have been subjected to irritating high-pitched noises, but these are not emanating from some lunatic who has found a whistle, although they are just as irritating.
Irritating because out of all the deafening sound and fury, there is little merit or substance to be gleaned.
It seems the perpetrator of the noise suddenly found her capacity to make noise, no matter how discordant, once the doors to the murky whirlpool of Zanu PF politics were swung wide-open for her.
The whistle-blower (no pun intended) is none other than the First Lady Grace Mugabe who has, of late, been behaving like the proverbial lunatic who has stumbled upon a whistle.
Ever since she was elevated to heir- apparent to the coveted Zanu PF Women’s League chair, Mai Mugabe has been on a boisterous campaign blitz at which she has made all manner of astounding allegations, claims and accusations, evidently totally unconcerned about their validity, veracity or national impact.
Perhaps the most bizarre of her claims is to suggest that her husband President Robert Mugabe is a man of God. “President Mugabe is a pastor; when he speaks, I think when you hear him speak, you can hear that he is ordained by God,” she said.
The fact that she makes this gratuitous claim while addressing about 300 pastors and their wives who had been conscripted, I suspect, like many other foreign and local visitors to her children’s home in Mazowe, shows how she now believes by saying what ever she feels like, that somehow makes her statements unassailable. “I think that he [Mugabe] is the only gift from God that Zimbabwe has. He is the biggest gift that we have,” Grace said to applause from the church leaders.
Genuine God-fearing Christians, traditionally humble and modest in their blandishments about faith, should be outraged by this blasphemous self-delusion. But then, these church leaders, especially invited to partake of the hospitality of the famously charitable Mazowe Orphanage, probably felt “empowered”, to use contemporary ZimAsset lexicon.
Then came what I thought takes the biscuit in delusional grandstanding. “My time has come to show people what I am made of,” Grace warned ominously, adding that she might have a “small fist”, but when it comes to fighting, “I will put stones inside it to enlarge it, or even put on gloves to make it bigger. Do not doubt my capabilities”. Readers will, no doubt have been reminded of a similar boast by President Mugabe when he claimed to have degrees in violence — and the numerous times he has waved a gnarled fist at perceived enemies in his well-known angry gestures.
Grace, perhaps anxious to salvage her reputation following widespread doubts that her recently acquired PhD from the University of Zimbabwe was legitimately deserved, has also unreservedly lashed out her husband’s detractors: “In the afternoon, you come to the President and tell him that you love him and support him, but before dawn you will be calling people to meet so that you plot for President Mugabe’s downfall and you think it is that easy treating an educated man like Mugabe like a child. Are you sure?” she said to cheers.
“We might be quiet, but we know of the people who are busy bribing people so that they get votes. I want to say stop it, stop it before congress because we have the information. My husband and I might be sitting quietly at our home, but we know you and one of these days I will confront you,” Grace said on one of her so-called meet-the-people rallies on Monday.
“You see people coming to Baba [Mugabe] saying to him that they want to go and hold victory celebrations over the emphatic electoral victory . . . these are the same people who did not want these elections in the first place. Even if you ask Mnangagwa, people did not want these elections,” she said.
Of course, for those who have followed closely Zanu PF’s murky succession politics, the mere mention of [Emmerson] Mnangagwa’s name came as no surprise and was more than revealing about where her loyalties lie.
The First Lady, who is set to lead the Zanu PF Women’s League after the incumbent Oppah Muchinguri, decided to make way for her, has reportedly severely divided Zanu PF. Many Zanu PF stalwarts, whispers below the surface suggest, are dismayed at this unrestrained “loose canon” now unleashed in their midst.
Indeed, on the evidence of her speeches so far, as one daily newspaper opined, Zanu PF has a monumental challenge remaining intact pre-and-post December congress in the wake of the Grace Mugabe “tsunami” now raging on the horizon.