WHEN the beautiful South African-born Grace Marufu first emerged from the shadows of being a receptionist as President Robert Mugabe’s bride at a lavish wedding in 1996 aged 31, under a cloud of scandal as their secret affair had blossomed while the much-loved but ailing First Lady Sally was still alive, few would have imagined her featuring so prominently in the current high-stakes political drama or reality show we are now watching free of charge.
EDITOR’S MEMO WITH DUMISANI MULEYA
Despite that Ghanaian-born Sally was adored by the public for her role in the liberation struggle and classy deportment, Grace — 41 years younger than Mugabe — still managed to win some admiration with her beauty and charm.
Like Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad’s wife, Asma, she was glamorous and very chic — one of the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. The only difference though is Grace was a typist while British-born Asma was an investment banker in London.
Over the years, as Grace gradually crawled out of Mugabe and Sally’s shadow, she started winning some hearts and minds as she got involved in humanitarian work.
She built an orphanage, a school and dairy through some sort of hard work. Appearing to be offering wholehearted relief to the poorest of the poor, Grace grabbed Iron Mask Farm in Mazowe from an old white couple to grow food for family consumption and the orphanage as well as for sale, showing she was not only doing philanthropic work, but also empire-building.
Despite her apparent vanity to some, highlighted by an unsavoury reputation as a shopaholic and extravagant bling-bling, she still seemed determined to contribute positively to society even though sceptics doubted her sincerity.
Besides charity work, she appeared interested in improving her academic credentials despite her disastrous record and de-registration at the University of London in 2004.
Her enrolment with the People’s University of China in 2007 to study Mandarin and lessons with the Confucius Institute as well as private lectures by Sino professors seconded by the Chinese embassy in Harare also showed her desire to learn.
That was before her bogus PhD.
She looked fine and true to her 1990s vow never to join politics.
Then came 2008 when Mugabe faced defeat by Morgan Tsvangirai at the height of hyperinflation; Grace joined the fray.
Since that time she has been dabbling in politics and during last year’s general elections she was in the thick of action before she plunged headlong into the deep end just recently in August.
After that her dark side came out. Carl Jung calls it the shadow, meaning one’s negative side; the sum total of all those unpleasant qualities we like to hide.
From the time when she was nominated to head the Zanu PF Women’s League and embarked on a whirlwind campaign to build a national support base and profile, Grace has been on the rampage, ranting and raving incessantly while attacking her rivals recklessly without articulating issues and offering her vision.
Coming covered with a unifier fig leaf, her true colours were however exposed before long and after that she has been spitting fire, savaging Vice-President Joice Mujuru to protect self-interest while rescuing Emmerson Mnangagwa’s camp.
Relentlessly raging like stormy seas, her emotional intensity and outbursts at rallies, together with chilling ferocity and threats, seemingly motivated by vengeance over endangered family interests has left Zanu PF in turmoil and the nation shocked.
While glamorous spouses can help play positive roles as benevolent “mother figures” of the nation and redeem discredited husbands in power, Grace is doing the opposite. She has now become the pretty face of tyranny battling to rescue Mugabe’s faltering rule in the midst of a serious economic tailspin to protect the trappings of power, material interests and privileges, not to serve the people.