BY EDMUND KUDZAI
Barely two years into her husband’s tenure as president, first lady Auxillia Mnangagwa has diminished the little dignity she enjoyed having come into the comforts of State House on the back of a military coup.
In this short time, Auxillia has been caught on audio recordings threatening military officers and on camera intimidating workers at NatPharm, demanding they release medicines.
It is unclear as to whether her actions are a function of ignorance or an arrogant disregard for the structure of a constitutional democracy of which she has no codified or officially defined role.
Whatever the source of her political vigilantism, it is time for her to go home and attend to her domestic affairs. The first lady must be under no impression that her meddling ways and cheap public relations stunts are going unnoticed.
As mentioned above, she is not an elected or public official. She is merely the wife of the president. She must not mistake the deference she enjoys from those surrounding her husband for anything more than politeness and currying of presidential favour.
In her verbal tirade directed at Lieutenant-Colonel Samson Murombo, in which she issued various empty threats accusing the military of trying to kill her husband, it was clear that she believed that she holds some power or authority entitling her to dress down a grown man who has distinguished himself in his career. This on the strength of her sharing a bed with the president.
The same tone could be heard when she appeared on national broadcaster ZBC haranguing executives at NatPharm, accusing them of incompetence and demanding they immediately “release” medications.
It goes without saying that Mrs Mnangagwa has no authority over NatPharm or its staff. On what basis did she visit that government facility to conduct herself in such an unbecoming manner? Perhaps the most shameful part of that visit was the fact that the national broadcaster saw nothing untoward in her conduct and chose to beam that shameful episode to the entire country.
She has also been known to summon ministers of government. Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and Obadiah Moyo, his health counterpart, have spent precious hours in her undesired company.
These are not isolated incidents but form part of a wider pattern that shows a first lady, who is overstepping her boundaries.
During a previous doctors’ strike, their representatives found themselves at State House having been summoned by the first lady. More recently, government business came to a halt after she called prayers at State House on a Monday to seek divine intervention in the face of sanctions and a collapsing economy. The attendance by senior government officials must not be misread as signifying the importance of the event, but the power an unelected first lady exerts over public officials to the extent of having them attend nonsensical events that serve no useful purpose in so far as governance is concerned.
Now reports have emerged that the first lady has allegedly inserted herself in yet another matter which is none of her business. Over the weekend, phone recordings and documents surfaced appearing to show that Mrs Mnangagwa has waded into a custody battle involving businessman, Frank Buyanga, whose ex-girlfriend is now serving as mistress to a close relative.
The first lady has been allowed to carry on in this way largely because Zimbabwe is a society controlled through fear. While society whispers at her endless absurdities, she continues to throw her borrowed power around, proving that she learned nothing from Grace Mugabe, for whom the ending was nasty.
The world over, first ladies — if they have to venture out at all — preoccupy themselves with charitable work, otherwise their main task is to support their very busy husbands in their domestic arrangement.
Being a first lady is not a career, Auxillia Mnangagwa should be reminded.
She would do well to curb her enthusiasm and stop lording it over public servants, especially the men and women in uniform.
She also should be reminded that every Zimbabwean has their inalienable rights, and issuing threats to arrest private citizens — as is reported to be the case in the Buyanga matter — shows her not as the powerful giant she envisions herself to be, but a dwarfish and clumsy usurper whose antics lead to the same lonely political and social graveyard Grace Mugabe now inhabits.
l Edmund Kudzai is the editor of the Kukurigo news service