This week saw one of the most superbly orchestrated coups the world has ever seen.
Robert Mugabe is on his way out. It is over. Kaput. Finished. The power, the money, the influence, the reverence, and the fear he inspired in people is gone too.
I feel especially sorry for his wife, Grace, a ruthlessly ambitious former mistress turned wife. Her plans to become president have been botched, the charade is over. The music has suddenly stopped and the party is over.
I have been following Grace Mugabe for a while now. I particularly like her story, I must admit. I mean, I like people with a story. Don’t get it wrong, I don’t like Grace, I like her story. I like the story of a woman who has come a distance.
Grace, once a typist attached to Mugabe’s office, is a masterful, opportunistic woman who knew how to strike while the iron was hot.
Knowing that Mugabe’s first wife was on her deathbed (she had cancer), Grace positioned herself to become the country’s next First Lady. Her plans went exactly as she had hoped, but her detractors had grossly underestimated her, thinking that all she wanted was to be a mere First Lady.
The closer Grace got to power, the more she liked it, it stirred an insatiable appetite in her, and maybe Grace thought she would make a better president than the nonagenarian she was married to.
You wouldn’t blame Grace for wanting more. So, Grace had her sights set very high, her bar was up there, in the ranks of Hillary Clinton (I dare not compare), she wanted to be among the few women presidents in the continent.
The only blot in her best-laid plans was that greed got the better of her. She thought Zimbabwe was her footstool. She thought that her proximity to power accorded a licence to be a proud and haughty woman, a scheming politician and an arrogant First Lady.
I will not catalogue her shopping sprees here, you can go check that out yourself, but Grace was a wasteful human being and as nasty as they come.
As her people died of hunger and wallowed in poverty, she was painting Paris red, picking handbags and designer high heels with reckless abandon. The poor people of Zimbabwe could sort themselves out for all she cared.
Perhaps Grace did not see this coming. Perhaps Mugabe did not expect to leave office like this. It is likely that they thought they would rule forever.
Watching her interviews on YouTube, following the sneers on her face, it was quite clear that this woman did not anticipate the kind of takeover she just experienced.
You see, this is the thing with power when it goes to your head. When one becomes intoxicated with power, they think they are invincible and untouchable. They believe they are man-gods- or woman-gods, to be gender sensitive, and they begin to act as if they will be in power forever. Does that sound familiar?
Obviously, there is nothing wrong with ambition. There is no crime in dreaming big and working ruthlessly towards a goal. After all, life is about purpose. It is about commitment and resolve. It is about figuring out “why on earth am I here?” and pursuing that ambition with every fibre of your being.
AMBITION GONE WRONG
But on your way up, let Grace’s be a cautionary tale for ambition gone wrong. Be careful about the paths that you take on your way up, and the means you use to acquire this end, for the past often always comes to collect its dues.
Grace and her children must have thought that this would last forever. But as Sydney Sheldon’s best-selling novel suggests, nothing last forever. Her children, on social media, would boast about their riches, captioning pictures and videos: “because daddy runs the country”.
As children in Zimbabwe slept hungry, without hope for a future, those of Mugabe wasted money from public coffers as their mother looked on, cheering them on.
However, the most important lesson we could learn from Grace is on how we should treat people on our way up. Somebody should have told Grace to be careful how she treated people on her way up, she just might need them on her way down.
Better said, Grace, salimianga watu, mambo huharibika.