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Grace’s Black Swan politics

LIKE her or not, Grace Mugabe stormed Zimbabwe’s rugged political landscape, in particular Zanu PF’s notoriously convoluted succession politics, like a Black Swan event — unexpected and yet devastating like a tsunami in her impact.

Editor’s Memo with Dumisani Muleya

Throughout her tempestuous rallies and meetings, that majored in emotional outbursts and minored in sober engagement, facts and evidence, Grace put a dramatic show, eliciting both support and hostility in almost equal measure in terms of intensity.

Her handlers and supporters found her bold, amazing and refreshing, while her detractors disliked her tone, attitude and posture. They also didn’t like her flippancy, glibness and arrogance.

Her choking emotional intensity during the addresses, which sometimes descended into gossip and rumour-mongering spectacles, as well as her astonishing lack of sophistication and brashness bordering on recklessness, just made it worse.

It was sometimes unedifying — beyond belief, to say the least. But even then some people liked it. I found her entertaining, but not engaging.

Yet she took local, and to some extent regional, politics by storm like a black swan; an unpredictable, rare, but nevertheless high impact event. It would take ages for us to see someone who doesn’t mind dirty and crude politics like her.

Well, the concept of black swan events was popularised by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book of the same name, described in UK The Sunday Times as one of the 12 most influential books since World War II.

Naturally, if you ask futurists like Michael Lee about it they will laugh their lungs out. Lee did a ripping review of the book. It was merciless like Grace’s attacks on Vice-President Joice Mujuru.

Which now brings me to the Grace black swan phenomenon.
What motivated Grace’s unexpected entry into politics? Was it out of her own volition or she was prodded by someone or provoked by circumstances, or all of this combined? What is her agenda? What will be the consequences of her actions on herself, Zanu PF and the nation? What does this portends for Zimbabwe?

Will the Zanu PF congress be a watershed event, or just a damp squib, proving Grace’s crusade was like a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing? Will it take the country forward?
These are some of the questions and issues which arise?

Although it is not conclusively clear now what motivated Grace to spring into action, her behaviour and remarks, particularly personalised attacks on Mujuru and references to her being dragged in the streets Gaddafi-style if the vice-president took over, suggests she is driven by personal and family interests.

It is not unreasonable to assume she fears if Mujuru takes over, particularly when Mugabe is gone, she will hound her family and seize their assets.

From what Grace has said so far, it seems she and Mugabe pushed herself into the fray. Circumstances, especially if her references to what Mujuru allegedly said in some secret recordings she claims to have are taken into account, also played a major, if not decisive, role. Grace’s impact on succession and local politics will be huge if Mujuru is stymied, which looks certain even if a week in politics is a long time.

Her actions, of course sanctioned by Mugabe, will change the course of history as Mujuru might never become president, and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa might eventually be.

So this means Grace’s crusade was not just full of sound and fury signifying nothing. It was a high impact intervention.
Whether this would be a good thing or not for Zanu PF, it’s difficult to tell at this stage.

What is clear, though, is that Grace’s volcanic rise was like a black swan — we may never see that again in our generation — although it’s taking the country nowhere.

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