IT is common to think of politicians as socially inept to have fulfilling personal relationships. If a politician does have a spouse or partner, we imagine they would choose someone entirely uninterested in politics so that the other half could take care of the family during their absence.
From Jonathan Moyo, Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube, Saviour Kasukuwere and Olivia Muchena, among many others, we have a generous list of examples of high-profile Zimbabwean politicians whose spouses or partners have relatively been unknown. The trend has been changing of late with spouses of politicians coming out of their shells to stand shoulder to shoulder with their mates in the political power corridors.
Here and there, there are some instances where the twinkling of the eye has not always bore good fortunes in their marriages. But even if it gets a little sticky sometimes, their marriages are not always disastrous. In fact, sometimes these partnerships result in even greater political popularity. Here is a handful of some high-profile political couples in Zimbabwe.
President Robert Mugabe and Grace Mugabe
It was not until only a few months ago that President Robert’s wife stormed into the political arena. Before then, anyone who suggested that the First Lady would one day be rubbing shoulders with heavyweights in the ZANU-PF Politburo — the most powerful organ in the party — would have been advised, gently or otherwise, to seek counselling. Fast forward to now, that person could, by now, have had the proverbial last laugh, for not only is she sitting with them, but they are bowing down for her too. Grace entered the political arena like a devastating tornado. Despite being a novice, she became the face of one of the most spectacular episodes in the political history of Zimbabwe. In the process, she earned herself the influential position of secretary for women’s affairs in the party and with a little bit of more luck, could become a Cabinet minister too. The Cabinet portfolio vacated by her predecessor to the party position, Oppah Muchinguri is still vacant.
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Auxilia Mnangagwa
Until the ZANU-PF primary elections in the run-up to the 2013 general elections, very few people knew the name Auxilia Mnangagwa. Now, it’s a household name. She claimed political popularity when she contested and won the party’s primary elections for the Midlands senate seat but ended up failing to make it to Parliament. She did not give up!
The party recently announced that her nomination to contest for the Chirumhanzu-Zibagwe constituency left vacant following the elevation of her husband to the position of Vice President was uncontested, making her the sole candidate on ZANU-PF’s ticket. Judging by how her husband has fared in Chirumhanzu-Zibagwe in the last two polls, ZANU-PF might easily romp to victory, which means that Mnangagwa’s wife now has one foot into the august House where she could soon be sitting alongside her husband.
Monica Mutsvangwa and Chris Mutsvangwa
The pair has become a force to reckon with on the political arena. Having met in the trenches during the liberation war, the relationship survived the armed struggle, transiting into independence in 1980. Nearly 35 years on, the Mutsvangwas are still going strong and counting. The way they have complemented each other is ample proof that when it comes to cultivating power, sometimes it takes two to tango. Having relatively been in the political shadows for a very long period, this couple has burst into the limelight thanks to the life-changing dynamics within ZANU-PF. They now sit alongside each other in the National Assembly and are both ministers in President Mugabe’s government. The man is minister for the newly established portfolio for war veterans while the wife is the deputy information minister. Both are combative and outspoken. When former ZANU-PF secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, undertook to oust Monica from Manicaland province, the husband took guard and launched a series of verbal slurs against Mutasa who has since, in dramatic fashion, been fired from government and demoted in the party.
Solomon and Joice Mujuru
Theirs is another case of budding romance that blossomed in the trenches amid blazing guns and bombs. Many are of the view that the former vice president actually inherited the faction that was decimated in the run-up to ZANU-PF’s congress late last year from the deceased former military supremo. They say what befell his wife would probably not have happened had he been alive. He preferred to control the levers of power from behind the scenes.
Josiah and Ruth Chinamano
The two national heroes, another classic case of love that blossomed within the power corridors, now lie next to each other at the national shrine. Josiah Chinamano was the long serving ZAPU vice president while his wife Ruth was also a politician in her own right. They both suffered incarceration at the hands of the brutal Ian Smith regime and according to veteran nationalist, Joshua Nkomo, Ruth always insisted that she was not arrested as a wife to Josiah but as a stand-alone politician.
Webster and Constance Shamu
Together we rise, together we fall. This aptly explains the political story of this couple. Constance had risen quickly from the shadows to become the Mashonaland West provincial chairperson of the ZANU-PF Women’s League while the husband was the national political commissar. Together, they fell from grace owing to the on-going purge in the ruling party. Another couple that also fell simultaneously during the purge was the Porusingazi couple of Enoch and Joyline.
Even the young politicians are emulating their seniors too, suggesting that the trend could continue. Examples of young political power couples are Patrick and Beauty Zhuwao, Tabeth nee Kanengoni and Mpehlabayo Malinga, Mhondoro Ngezi Legislator, Mike and Tendai Gava among others. The trend is not only limited to the ruling party alone. Ian and Theresa Makone from the Movement for Democratic Change headed by Morgan Tsvangirai are the most prominent political couple in the opposition party which also at one point had the late national chairman, Isaac Matongo and Evelyn Masaiti sitting together at high decision-making organs. Perhaps, with politicians having the highest divorce rates out of any profession, it could be time they seriously consider settling for and with one another. It is a tough profession that demands long hours, frequent travel, and attention to an electorate that could stir feelings of neglect on the part of a lover.