THE First Lady and philanthropist Amai Grace Mugabe is one of the biggest newsmakers in Zimbabwe. A public profile may have all the good things – one may savour their first media appearance – but it has its challenges, too. In fact, being a high-profile figure presents more than enough nightmares as the media may seek to glean all kind of information about a person from the banal – what a person eats – to the political correctness of their private and public statements.
It is for this reason that public figures virtually have two lives, the private and the public; but then as a rule of the thumb public figures do not have private lives!
Some people are lucky to enjoy relative peace away from the long noses of the media and gossip mongers, while others aren’t so lucky.
In fact, woe betides the person out of whom the media fashion an unfavourable image, for whatever reason.
Criminals rightly earn the discomfort of public glare and it was the Americans’ Federal Bureau of Investigation that came up with the term “Public Enemy Number One”, referring to the most wanted person on its lists.
The media latch onto, and lap up, such soundbites.
Public Enemy Number One may thus assume any form of undesirable elements from criminals to cheats in a game.
The “public enemy number ones” usually deserve their demonisation because society cringes at wayward, criminal, inhumane and generally unacceptable behaviour.
By the way, during the trying times that have characterised Zimbabwe in the past few years, we have had our own “public enemy number ones”.
Former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono once declared that inflation was Zimbabwe’s Number One Enemy.
Indeed, it was.
Runaway inflation eroded people’s savings and livelihoods and wiped with it the value of, and confidence in, the local currency, the Zimbabwe dollar.
Attempts have been made to portray corruption as Zimbabwe’s Public Enemy Number One, but that has not quite stuck, for whatever reason.
The idea of these nomenclatures and designation is quite simple: it sets the agenda and direct national or local discourse.
Now, back to the public figures, if one were to read the local private media, one would notice their rather futile and particularly unwarranted and unmerited attempts at portraying philanthropist First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe as some kind of public enemy through their disrespectful, relentless and negative coverage.
This is nothing new and it has gone on for close to two decades.
Amai Mugabe has been accused of all sorts of things from having expensive tastes, which accusation came with its monikers, to being so heartless as to evict families from their land and casting them to the mercy of the elements.
(The latter, of course, being a misplaced accusation as she has no part in the lawful eviction of illegal settlers at a national heritage site in Mazowe.)
In recent times, however, there has been renewed hatred against the Zanu-PF Women’s League boss, especially after she launched her political career in earnest.
Recent reports, which those who purport to fight hate speech in the country should seriously look into, show the venomous extent to which the attacks on Amai Mugabe have become.
Take, for example, The Daily News and its reporter, one Fungi Kwaramba, who seems to be eyeing some imaginary prize in denigrating the philan- thropist.
In a story yesterday, “New war breaks out in Mugabe’s Zanu-PF” the First Lady is described as President Mugabe’s “quarrelsome wife” (the Bible has an injunction on a “quarrelsome wife, doesn’t it?)
The epithet is repeated in another story in which youth leader Godfrey Gomwe is described as “a fanatic follower of quarrelsome First Lady Grace Mugabe” and in many other recent stories.
Party “thugs” who are terrorising informal traders are quoted as having “the blessing” of the First Lady.
An editorial in The Daily News on January 11 says, “Please stop Grace” and states that: “Grace must understand that the people she is mercilessly evicting also have rights just like her and the entire first family.”
That is in relation to the Manzou evictions, which as highlighted above and as authorities have indicated, have nothing to do with the First Lady.
But the misrepresentation and hate does not end there.
In another piece in The Daily News, legislator Fortune Chasi is hailed as “Brave legislator takes on Grace”, and taking a “suicidal mission”.
The Daily News also describes the First Lady as “a self-styled ‘philanthropist'”.
The opposition has naturally weighed in and opposition MDC-T spokesperson wildly claimed that: “Grace Mugabe has unlawfully and selfishly taken over the entire Mazowe Valley, which is one of the most fertile farming areas in Zimbabwe.”
He added: “Poor peasants have been treated in a very inhumane and degrading manner by Grace Mugabe, who is corruptly abusing State power by disobeying a lawful order issued by the High Court.”
His bos,s Morgan Tsvangirai, said, during an address that “I think the time has come to call Grace to order because this is a run of madness”.
The hate-mongering against the First Lady continues, unabated.
The question, however, is what is the anatomy of those that are cultivating hate against the philanthropist?
The first, general, point to make is that they are political cowards who shy away from taking her husband on and have resorted to directing their anger towards his “better half”, making it both a political and psychological game.
The idea may have been to frustrate her into talking her husband out of office.
She has proved that she is made of sterner stuff and that she is a political entity in and of herself.
She even revealed during her Meet the People rallies that she read and shrugged off such malice.
The second observation on the anatomy of First Lady bashers is that they are people who have misread their history.
They have read about and seen powerful wives of politicians who may have been ill-treated when their husbands died and they wish the same could befall Amai Mugabe.
Suffice to say, it reflects badly on the politics of the opposition which, for all we know, engrosses itself with personalities rather than issues.
On the other hand, there has been a spirited attempt to fashion an object of hate out of Amai Mugabe, the way Queen Marie Antoinette in 17th century France was.
That is where the narrative of the alleged extravagance comes in.
However, the fact is that Amai Mugabe, who is a hard worker, who makes her own clothes and grows her own food will never be a Marie Antoinette.
That is why the symbolism never sticks, anyway.
It is also useful to point out that some of the people that love to hate Amai Mugabe are simply envious and jealous of her position and her achievements as a businesswoman and philan- thropist.
Amai Mugabe’s ventures and projects in Mazowe, such as the children’s home and school, have outshone even those that have been around and reposing in that province for much longer and whose personal fortunes run to reported billions of dollars.
Amai Mugabe shows entrepreneurial and philanthropic sides that put to shame those who should have done better given their stature and status in society.
The politicians, cowards and losers only do what “haters”, in today’s parlance, are expected to do.