When the first lady asked ‘Why shouldn’t I be president?’ what she was really saying, loud and proud, was “Turn down for what?” and boy did it set the chattering Zimbosphere alight. The phrase has toured the internet, television and radio, and rarely is it posed as a question to be answered. So, perhaps we need to spend a little more time reflecting and then seize this opportunity to respond.
Our FLOZ (First Lady of Zimbabwe) has been hurricaning her way, in every direction, across the Zimbabwean political landscape, with no sign that she desires or intends to slow down. She has successfully raised a family, nurtured her marriage, kept the paparazzi at bay, and cut as many cakes and ribbons as duty has required. She has shaken her fist in support of the status quo, she has denounced detractors in and outside the party, and for lack of evidence to the contrary (such as a practical secondment to a ministerial position….) we can only assume she has learnt the skills required for statecraft and leadership from the President himself. This personally crafted remedial crash course has been supported and delivered by the mass of sympathetic ministers and other civil servants who have in their hearts’ deepest interests, the prosperity of the nation of Zimbabwe. The awarding of a PhD (and the cynical press reports accompanying this as having been completed in record time) only goes to show that not only is she experienced, she is a home-grown intellectual. What Amazing Grace lacks in gravitas, let me assure you, she more than compensates for in fashion sense and international travel experience. Indeed, people, turn down for what?
In more measured climes (for which read: those successfully displaying democratic political governance), the synergistic political process shapes the path leading to the future, even where there seems to be little synergy. Arguments from the left and right battle for first place, the kaleidoscope of every political party moulding and mending the narrative that will be deemed to best represent ‘the people’. The democratic process needs the full spectrum of voices to be heard to ensure that whatever colour the future is, it is a shade of what is humanistic, just and a reflection of the needs and wants of society. Without polemic on both left and right and the ensuing disorder and affray from the general population, are the ruling classes not just comfortable unopposed fat cats? Western parliaments are a haberdashery of nutjobs, jobsworths, self-serving liars AND men of the people. Why shouldn’t African parliaments be the same? Our governing structures do not need to be filled with saints and heroes, but neither should they be entirely comprised of thieves and tyrants with superiority complexes.
In the diaspora, we look in envy at the South African fledgling democracy as it struggles to find its future path with an inescapable and at times suffocating historical legacy. There, politics seems to always be balancing on a knife-edge, and no one is entirely comfortable, least of all those of us who are watching from afar. In contrast, Zimbabwean politics is a same old/same old game of who can grab as much power as possible. Our balancing voices, those shouting in opposition, are stilled. Our people do not know how practically to bring about change to the political landscape – look at our collective 34 years of stagnation as evidence.
Oh but let’s not forget the point. The point is that FLOZ has asked us a question and so, shouldn’t we answer? Instead of marginalising and ignoring her efforts to engage with the people, we the thinking opposition, particularly the political commentators and would-be future leaders – young and old, at home and abroad – should engage in dialogue, not just with Amai but with each other about the subtext of the question and the ramifications of this revelation that she feels that she is as qualified as any Zimbabwean to run our already exhausted republic. As a digestif to the discussions, let us remember that time is surely running out on the current presidential watch.
It’s not enough for us to simply gossip about the spats that break out between our favourite politicians we love to hate, as if we were watching gladiators battling and keeping a book on the grisly outcome. Are we as mute and as powerless as the mere mortals of ancient Greece, powerlessly watching the gods battle with thunderbolts, sea and wind. Grace delivered her desire and possible intention to lead the nation to us like Pandora rising from the earth and so we should answer the questions “They say I want to be president. Why not? Am I not a Zimbabwean?” as if she is asking us, why not open Pandora’s box? We should all know that the answer is that we have enough wrongs to right. Do we really need one more?