Beware of ides of October

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IN one of English playwright William Shakespeare’s tragedies, Julius Caesar, a soothsayer warns Julius Caesar the king to “beware of the ides of March,” warning him of his impending death.

Elias Mambo

Literature experts believe the ides of March did not signify anything special in itself, but was just the usual way of saying March 15.

The notion of the ides being a dangerous date was purely an invention of Shakespeare’s and this date was not significant in being associated with death prior to 1601.

Months of the Roman calendar were arranged around three named days — the Kalends, the Nones and the Ides.

The ides fell on March 15, May, July and October and since Julius Caesar’s death, the ides became associated with death.

Bringing the concept home, President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace, is seemingly making the ides to fall in October Last October, she all but declared war on the thenvice-president Joice Mujuru, going on a rampage by viciously attacking her and other senior Zanu PF officials after accusing her of trying to overthrow Mugabe.

Taking off gloves and almost running riot, Grace, using innuendo and thinly-veiled insinuations suggested the former vice-president was corrupt and an extortionist who owns 10% equities in many companies.

Seemingly complaining about her family and business interests, which Mujuru was endangering, Grace further insinuated Mujuru was a divisive figure who should be thrown onto the streets to be devoured by vultures.

It was at this time that Grace also practically announced Mujuru would be removed in December, and in the process shaped the agenda of the disputed 2014 December Congress.

Fast-forward to October 2015, there is a sense of déjà vu about her remarks last week and a political soothsayer may as well say “beware the ides of October” to vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Grace guns appear to be aimed in his direction if events that unfolded when Grace addressed a rally in Chimanimani, Manicaland, last week are anything to go by.

In a high-risk and adventurous power-seeking manoeuvre, Grace last Thursday, intensified her blitz threatening a political tsunami against Mnangagwa and his faction pushing to take him to State House.

“Only yesterday, just last year when we witnessed some people being expelled, I had said I’m a referee,” thundered Grace as she recalled her past role in the eventual expulsion of Mujuru before switching to the present continuous tense to warn of what she can do to Mnangagwa and his backers in the not-too distant future.

“I will blow the whistle whenever it gets ugly. I’m not scared to blow the whistle. So don’t push me to the point where I have to blow the whistle,” she said.

“Zanu PF is like a soccer team, so you should know that you are in a soccer match as part of a team and you must know the referee is watching you. If you kick the ball and kick someone else’s knee, the referee will blow the whistle. The tone of the whistle is always determined by how you play.

If it is blown so loud that it’s heard in Mozambique then you’re out, you the player. So I’m saying all those who are engaging in factionalism should stop it forthwith.”

However, on Wednesday Grace appeared to be climbing down from the campaign targeted at Mnangagwa as she diverted attention to attack Mujuru again, whilst dragging journalists into the fray. It appeared she has been called to order and reined in.

Political analyst and University of Kent law professor Alex Magaisa says Grace is using the same method she used last year to humiliate opponents.

“The method is clear. The central feature is to publicly berate and humiliate opponents into submission banking on the belief that few, if any, have the guts to answer back,” Magaisa said.

“Mujuru and company were beaten into submission until they were thrown out. This time it depends whether Mnangagwa and company are also prepared to take a thorough beating without fighting back.”

However, Magaisa said this time around it may prove to be a tough battle for Grace.

“I suspect this time it will be different. While this might sound alarmist, I suspect this time it will be nastier and dirtier.

If you choose to come down to the dance floor, then you must be prepared to be pushed, shoved or even to have bottoms pinched,” he said.

Another analyst, Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director Pedzisai Ruhanya concurs with Magaisa that it will not be easy for Grace to shove Mnangagwa like she did to Mujuru.

“Grace has no legal power to institute changes within government. She is largely projecting herself as a lawless citizen but she is likely to face a difficult hurdle to push out Mnangagwa.

The Mugabe family was rescued by Mnangagwa since 2002 when they began to lose elections so it is very tough especially for Mugabe to dump Mnangagwa,” Ruhanya said.

“Grace has two options if she is to succeed in pushing out Mnangagwa. Like in Mujuru’s case, her pillar, the late general Solomon Mujuru, was eliminated and died mysteriously before Mugabe targeted Joice.

In this case Mnangagwa has to disappear or die so that Grace can simply take over.

The other option, which may be difficult, is for Mugabe, using his Zanu PF constitution, can decide to disappoint Mnangagwa.”

Although Mnangagwa is still a favourite to succeed Mugabe, Grace’s close allies seem prepared to tackle the vice-president in a bid to stop his ascendancy.

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