IF it were not about serious issues, in this case a succession battle within a deeply divided ruling party and tied to that the future of a nation ruined by toxic leadership and policy failures, the unexpected entry of President Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace, into the charged political fray would just be farcical.
Editor’s Memo with Dumisani Muleya
But while the Drama Queen has provided theatrical displays, ranging the hilarious to the sad and even tragic, she has also stirred the pot on serious national issues.
Her drama-queening has brought to the fore the convoluted leadership succession question and the troubled nation’s future.
Thus the biggest query in everybody’s mind currently, except maybe those close to her who are part of the plot and the manoeuvring, is: What is Grace Mugabe up to? What’s her agenda?
There is so much speculation, scenario building and permutations ahead of the watershed Zanu PF congress from December 9-14.
While it is unclear what Grace is trying to do and who is behind all this, her starring role sheds some light through parallels.
First, she is beginning to appear like the real power behind the throne, suggesting Mugabe is losing control and is now practically only symbolically in charge.
In that case, Grace is acting like Lady Macbeth.
Power is a theme strongly deployed throughout the play Macbeth.
The plot involves Macbeth trying to gain more power. Lady Macbeth tries to convince Macbeth to kill Duncan to become king in his place.
Macbeth is also persuaded to kill anyone who threatens his chances of being king, including Banquo. Power is vastly used by certain characters in the play to influence others. One such character is Lady Macbeth.
She is a strong-willed character and dominant partner at the beginning as she persuades Macbeth to achieve his goal, and plans the murder of Duncan to pave way for him to take over.
As an overly dramatic character like Grace, Lady Macbeth is driven by self-interest and unbridled ambition for power.
Alternatively, Grace resembles Argentina’s Isabel Peron who became the first female president in the world when she assumed power as a deputy president then upon the death of her husband, Juan Peron, during his third term in July 1974.
Isabel’s tenure was characterised by economic instability, political violence, fierce repression and murder until she was overthrown by the military before being forced into exile in Spain.
Isabel was from a humble background and had poor education. After leaving school she became a dancer, performing in folk music groups, night clubs and ballet corps in Buenos Aires.
In 1956, while on tour with a dance troupe through Latin America, she met Juan, who had recently been ousted after about 10 years in power in his second spell.
Giving up her career as a dancer, she became his personal secretary and went with him into exile in Madrid where they married in 1961 and plotted Juan’s last term.
Incidentally, in her capacity as vice-president and First Lady in March 1974, Isabel, who was disliked compared to Juan’s ex-second wife Evita, hosted one of Mugabe’s allies, Romanian president Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena who, like Grace, got a fake PhD to build a national support base and boost her political profile to become the country’s second most influential leader after her husband as deputy premier before their execution by a firing squad in 1989.
Not only did Mugabe and Ceausescu — awarded Freedom of the City of Harare in 1983 for training liberation fighters — enjoy warm relations, but there are striking parallels on how their wives manoeuvred their way to the top.
But as Karl Marx said, history repeats itself, first as tragedy, and second as farce. Indeed, those who don’t learn from it are doomed to repeat it.