MANY were of the belief that First Lady Grace Mugabe would keep a low profile in the aftermath of her alleged assault of 20-year-old South African model, Gabriella Engels, which made international headlines, soiling her already tattered image and almost sparking a diplomatic row between Zimbabwe and its southern neighbour.
Candid Comment: Owen Gagare
But just three days after she arrived back home, youths loyal to the first lady were at it again, destroying makeshift homes of villagers at Manzou Farm on Wednesday.
The villagers have, since 2011, resisted her eviction attempts despite having their homes torched by the police. They have stayed put on the property courtesy of a High Court order preventing President Robert Mugabe’s wife from evicting them until alternative land is found for them.
Grace wants to establish a private game park at the farm, as part of her empire building exercise in the scenic Mazowe area of Mashonaland Central. Her empire already includes an opulent double-storey mansion on Mapfeni Farm, which can be seen from Manzou.
There is also a dairy farm, orphanage and a school. She is planning to build a university at a cost of more than US$1 billion using state funds.
While Grace is increasingly being associated with embarrassing indiscretions and controversies, none more pronounced than the alleged assault of Engels, many thought she would have been shaken, if not deeply embarrassed, by her South African shenanigans.
Indeed, her hasty departure from that country, in the wee hours of Sunday, after being granted diplomatic immunity under controversial circumstances, suggests that this may indeed have been the case. Her failure to attend the Southern Africa Development Community summit, were she was scheduled to take part in a session for leaders’ spouses also suggested that she was not at ease.
Decent people expected her to immerse herself in deep soul-searching, reflecting on the damage she has inflicted on the nation, her ageing husband and the First Family.
She was expected to tread carefully to avoid another controversy, given the massive tide of negative publicity she triggered by allegedly bashing Engels.
Grace had diplomatic immunity to thank for not being dragged to court, where her unacceptable behaviour would have been laid bare for the world to see.
The destruction of villagers’ makeshift homes at Manzou Farm was ill-advised and callous.
Her actions do not give the impression that Grace is a caring mother. On the contrary, there is a suggestion that she is a violently unstable person who has little respect for other humans and the rule of law.
She has gotten off lightly with attacking journalists in Singapore and Hong Kong, violating court orders in Zimbabwe, with the Manzou case being an example, but in the process her reputation has taken a battering. Grace must mend her ways.