The past couple of months have served up an interesting political dish in Zimbabwe and things are just about to get more intriguing, as two women have taken pole position in the race to decide the country’s future.
In another country, this wouldn’t be an issue, but Zimbabwe is very patriarchal, with the tendency to use tradition to block women from assuming top positions.
We’ll get back to that later.
The first woman directing Zimbabwean politics is Grace Mugabe, the wife of long time ruler, Robert. Grace is often seen as an unsophisticated trophy wife, who should have been content by just being at her husband’s side.
However, with Mugabe certainly in the Indian summer of his political career, Grace has become very powerful and influential, literally running her husband’s succession plan.
Grace’s biggest strength is obviously her husband, whom without she wouldn’t wield so much power.
Her second strength is that she is often underrated, seen as a pretty face with nothing to offer. But as Robert Mugabe said, Grace can hold her own in the rough political seas.
That she is a political novice is self evident, but she has the backing of the machinery and the system that her husband has been able to call on and rely on for the past 36 years.
So Grace may seem ungainly in her speeches and rough around the edges in the way she conducts herself, but this plays well into her favour and she strikes in a manner her more refined colleagues may never dream of.
After all, Grace has seen off one vice president and there is speculation that she has set her eyes on another. The easy explanation is that she is able to do this because of her husband’s power; this is quite true, but in the meantime, she is building her own career and not before long we might be surprised to see her scaling more heights.
Asked if she was angling for the presidency, she once said: “Why not, am I not a Zimbabwean?”
Write her off at your own peril.
The other woman, literally, is Joice Mujuru, once seen as the certain next president of Zimbabwe, until Grace decided to join politics and make sure she’s kicked out of the ruling party and government.
When her adversaries in Zanu PF realised that Mujuru looked unstoppable, a plot was hatched and traditional healers were roped in to say ancestors had told them Zimbabwe cannot be led by a woman. Remember the patriarchy I alluded to earlier?
We can only wonder if the ancestors will take any position where Grace to succeed her husband. But that’s a story for another day.
Anyway, Mujuru was shafted out of Zanu PF and decided to form her own party.
Mujuru has liberation war credentials, which we have been told, are critical for one to be a president of Zimbabwe. She was also a member of Zanu PF for 34 years and was vice president for 10 years. So she has the experience that Grace lacks.
Oh and like Grace, her husband is said to have been the force behind Mujuru and once he died, her nakedness was exposed – excuse the pun.
After her husband’s death, Mujuru has been able to hold her own and that could serve as encouragement to the younger Grace.
Grace and Mujuru are sworn enemies – at least we think – and a political contest featuring the two would be one to savour.
Mujuru has to earn the opposition support and fight for her space, but for Grace, the road is paved for her because of the people behind her.
But whatever the case, we have two women at the top of the country’s political game without even realising it, maybe this could be one way of fighting and ending patriarchy.