President Emmerson Mnangagwa has warned his wife and his vice president’s wife to steer clear of politics to avoid being like Grace Mugabe, the shopaholic, insult-spouting wife of former Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe.
A similar demand by opposition leader Nelson Chamisa to his own wife has triggered angry comments on social media.
On Saturday Mnangagwa told a fund-raising dinner in Harare that his and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga’s rallies were “not for the ladies”.
“Just a few months ago, we had (rallies), where both the (former) First Lady and the President were talking. We don’t want that to be repeated. Let it be a platform which is mine and my vice-presidents’ only and not for the ladies. It’s wrong,” Mnangagwa said in comments carried by the private NewsDay.
Grace Mugabe’s vitriolic comments at rallies overshadowed her ageing husband during his final months in office. She was instrumental in the sacking of Mnangagwa as vice president just days before the military took over and forced Mugabe’s resignation.
Mnangagwa’s wife Auxillia has spent a lot of time since her husband took office on November 24 visiting hospitals and orphanages. Saturday’s fund-raiser was for cancer awareness. It was organised by Chiwenga’s wife.
Mnangagwa did concede that Auxillia and Marry were serving the nation “and we must applaud the work that they do”.
‘Jumping up and down like chickens’
Meanwhile, the Movement for Democratic Change leader’s suggestion that his wife Sithokozile steer clear of politics has earned him some censure on social media.
Chamisa told supporters on Sunday that he had decided that his wife would not be like those in the Mnangagwa camp who were “jumping up and down like chickens as if they are now the presidents,” according to quotes carried by local news website, Bulawayo24.
‘Must women stay at home?’
Commentators on Twitter slammed Chamisa as sexist. “Does it have to be a man’s role to determine if his wife can be in politics or not? So it means women should stay at home while men are running the country. Poor Mrs Chamisa is in hell with this man,” said @FManyota.
Others were in favour of Chamisa’s decision though. “In essence he’s not of the view of a presidents wife being a super power. We learned this from Grace Mugabe it shouldn’t be repeated,” said @cla_chii.