First, did you know that Grace Mugabe was born in South Africa? Well, if you somehow missed it, now you know.
Anyway. Since the whole coup that was not a coup thing, there has been a lot going on over in Zim. One of those things is journalists speaking a bit more freely.
One of those journos is Foster Dongozi. Writing in The Standard this weekend, he relays a story from back in 1997 when he had accompanied Robert Mugabe to Paris – all as part of a press junket.
He was at the Ritz hotel, chatting to the late Foreign Affairs minister, Stanislaus Mudenge, known by some as Cde Stan.
He writes about how he – and many others – thought that Grace was just a ‘trophy wife’. On the jaunt, he started hearing whispers of how mortified some high-ranking officials were of Grace – and how she was allegedly prone to dishing out a few slaps before she even married Bob.
Legendary stories were told among veteran journalists about how a certain young lady always found herself on the presidential entourage together with one or two kids who would cause absolute racket on the plane. According to the legend, several high ranking officials on the plane would receive generous amounts of slaps to their faces and thank the kids or apologize to them.
So, there he is chatting away to Cde Stan, a “giant of a man with a booming voice”. Eventually, Grace arrives.
She appeared to notice and identify some of the officials on the presidential entourage and she nodded to them.
The officials did not disappoint either — they all but rolled over like obedient puppies to have their bellies tickled.
Mudenge and a few officials who had their backs to the entrance did not take notice so we continued with our conversation, although I was now watching the fascinating display of power being exhibited in the foyer of a hotel in far off France.
When she noticed Cde Stan, she reportedly bellowed:
“Murikupira midzimu yekupi?” (What traditional rituals are you conducting?)
Zimbabwe’s chief diplomat at the time for all his size, appeared to turn grey before he sprang up with the agility of a gazelle.
“I am going!” he all but screamed at me curtly as he made a beeline towards Grace and appeared to be apologising profusely for dereliction of duty.
Foster says Cde Stan went on to escort Grace to the elevator and appeared to “continue prostrating himself before Grace as she looked at him sternly.”
Woah! Definitely not a trophy wife. Ever since the military takeover began, many have tried to pin the fall of Bob squarely at the feet of Grace. And while that might be a bit harsh, there’s no doubt her political ambitions played some part.