Zimbabwe’s First Lady, Mrs Grace Mugabe, has disclosed that she is the only person who can speak freely and candidly to President Robert Mugabe while dismissing claims that she is the “strong hand” behind most of his political decisions.
Revealing her innermost thoughts and feelings on various issues among them politics, love, parenting and the Zimbabwean woman, the First Lady shared — in an unplanned and spontaneous exclusive interview with The Sunday Mail newspaper last week — that she has quite a close relationship with the President who has become her best friend.
“He is my best friend. We are very, very close… We talk about a lot of different things and we shout at each other as well. That’s normal, we are normal people. You can not say in a relationship that you will not anger each other. So it would be a blatant lie if I said we do not fight. We do sometimes, but then we talk and iron out our differences.
“We are human beings . . . It’s only natural. There are things that he might do that I don’t like and I will tell him that. I remind him that ‘I’m the only person who can talk to you like this and he has to listen to me.
“He is not the kind of person who will say ‘listen to me because I’m the President or even because of the age difference’ no . . . I’m not his daughter, I’m his wife. I’m his companion for life.
We talk a lot. Zvinonzi zviuya hazviwanane, we are very unique people. He is one man who is very clean. I am telling you; he is very clean and I always say thank you God for giving me such a clean man besides the fact that he is very intelligent and he is not a lazy person.
“I am somebody who has an inquiring mind and every time you ask him something, he is willing to articulate on that subject, expand on it. It does not matter what time of day it is. You can ask him, he will make time for you. He is a very wonderful man. He won’t say ‘I am too tired or I have a lot of work to do.’ He will never say that.
“I remember just two weeks ago, he had just arrived from a trip, it was late at night and I was writing something and I said to him, ‘I want you to read this for me, please’. I told him ‘I know it’s late, but you have to read it for me because I want to finish it by morning’. So he had to do it and he takes his time. He is very thorough. If he is going to work on a speech, he could have a draft done, but he is going to work on it. Oh, yes, he is a different person.’’
On claims that she influenced most of the President’s political decisions, Mrs Mugabe said: “Nonsense! That’s nonsensical! He is a very intelligent man, please! What you are telling me is that you underestimate my husband. As intelligent as he is … You know sometimes when I want to say something to him I am so scared because I know the answers I am going to get.
“When he stands up to speak at any moment, even now, impromptu, if you say, Mr President, make a speech, he will do it amazingly. Are you then saying he carries a tape recorder so that he listens to me first before he speaks? … No, do not do this to the President.’’
Last year, there were reports that the President was suffering from an undisclosed ailment and had visited Singapore for treatment.
Commenting on that trip and the President’s health, Mrs Mugabe said he had actually made the trip to Singapore to accompany her after she injured herself in the gymnasium.
“That’s what they say (the President’s alleged ill-health), they say Mr Mugabe is a very old man and this and that, but he is very sound and lucid. Very, very sound, I’m telling you, and very energetic, too.
“He will not miss his morning exercises, seven days a week. At that age, he is very lucky he inherited his mother’s genes. We think when she died she was over 100 years old and she was very sound. She was never sick at all and the President is not sick at all.’’
On the claims about her own health: “I injured my back in the gym . . . Do I look like a sick person? I am not sick, not for now. But even if I were sick, I am a human being. We all get sick and afflicted. So really it’s nothing to talk about.’’
The First Lady has often been portrayed as an extravagant spender with exquisite tastes, responding to those allegations she said: “I am a humble person, but I also like to dress well. I am like my mother, she dresses well, so did my father . . . I think it’s an art that’s in-born. I love dressing up, but I also make my own clothes. I design my own clothes.’’
On the alleged shopping sprees, she said: “They will say that because if they can’t get at (President) Mugabe they have to find a soft spot to get at him. So they think Grace is a soft spot, but I don’t think they know the real Grace. I’m not as soft as they think I am.’’
She has also been previously linked to alleged clandestine construction deals in Zimbabwe involving some business people from the Republic of Korea. Asked to shed light on her business ventures, the First Lady responded: “My husband and I are more into agriculture. We are farmers and, of course, we have been empowered through the land reform programme. We are running a dairy, but it is a very complicated business running a dairy, I have had to work hard on it…
“We have put up a big parlour there and we are now probably the second largest in the region. I am told there is a big one in South Africa in terms of points to milk each cow.
“The South African one has 84 milking points while ours has 64 clusters… We have also decided to add value to our milk so that we really make a little bit more money for ourselves and, of course, the workers.
“So we are putting up a processing plant and it’s almost complete.
“We also have a lot of beef cattle. About 2 000 cattle. So that is what we do really and nothing more. Yes, I intend to do other things, especially to support this project (the Grace Mugabe Orphanage and primary school), but I cannot talk about something that is not in existence yet.’’
On politics the First Lady remarked: “No one can equate what the President has done for this country, no matter what is said in future: no one; nobody.
“He is one very humble person. He carries himself with a degree of humility; a down-to-earth person.
“He is a caring and considerate man. He thinks about his people so much. You can observe that when he talks to the people, he talks with emotion, with passion. He wants Zimbabweans to be high up there in terms of education; in terms of how they see themselves, we should not look down upon ourselves.
“When the President talks about all of these things you can see that he really has a vision for this country and he wants Zimbabweans to be in charge of their economy. He wants the people to be in charge of their God-given natural resources.”
On the upcoming elections: “I think with the way things are at the moment and if what I hear is true, our party (Zanu-PF) stands a better chance.’’
And on the land reform programme: “The land issue is a very emotional issue to me because I know my parents were deprived of this land; their motherland. So you know what, they (Zimbabwe’s detractors) should not fool themselves. Sometimes they think like children really. I do not quite understand them, they hope that one day all the Zimbabweans will move out of the land so that they move back in… because Mugabe is not occupying all this land there are Zimbabweans who have been allocated these farms. It is not Mugabe and his family.’’
Asked about the election campaigns she ran alongside the President in 2008, the First Lady said it was her duty, as a Zimbabwean, to rally the nation against Western aggression.
She said while she had no plans to actively get involved in politics, she would continue to support Zanu-PF fully.
Her visibility during the 2008 polls, she said, was misconstrued by many as an indication that she was venturing into politics.
“Ahh . . . nyika yanga yaenda (the country was almost overrun by the enemy during the 2008 harmonised elections).
“So, I decided I could not watch things take the direction that had not been anticipated and I had to play my part as a citizen of this country. Of course, a lot of people said a lot of things, putting words into my mouth.
“… I was just doing it because I realised that I had a duty also to talk to the people, make them understand and tell them that whatever they were being promised (by the opposition and their backers) they were being fooled and all this vilification, especially of the First Family, is because of the land (reform programme).
“… I am not saying I want to engage in politics, but for people to confront me and say I want to run for President just because I am campaigning for my party is wrong. Who has the right more than me, to talk about my country? I am also a Zimbabwean. That is the more reason I work for this country and that is why I am working here (at the orphanage).
“I have to defend my country as well, as much as everybody else who is doing the same.”
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