South Africa was right on Grace Mugabe; she acted as a parent,

24Aug 2017
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Commentary
South Africa was right on Grace Mugabe; she acted as a parent,

The Zimbabwean first lady had a police pursuit in relation to an apparent beating up of a youthful South African woman described as a model, but the more helpful datum is that she is aged 20. She was following up Mugabe’s sons, said to habitually live in South Africa, not guests.

 

Those who have failed to understand why the South African government allowed the first lady to leave and ipso facto drop the case hinge their argument on human equality, in that no one is above the law, etc. There is first the diplomatic passport matter, a facility of international law intended to ensure that countries privilege relations between states over individual matters, in which case the case wasn’t above proper ties between South Africa and Zimbabwe. In that regard there was no error on the part of the South African Foreign Ministry on applying that principle.

In that case the only point that comes is the fuming over the lack of ‘equality’ between the Zimbabwean first lady and the model who was visibly beaten up, a complaint so grave that no diplomatic passport matter could conceivably come up. To this school of thought a few things need to be put in order, first being the fact that the young woman walked into hotel premises or something where the Mugabe family was lodged. So she went on a walk to purchase a quarrel by what the lady saw as misbehavior, but critics know there is a complicated issue, for a court case.

There is plenty on airwaves on what took place, including the half grown sons of the Zimbabwe first couple and their ties with that model, on whatever premise. There were other issues in the making in relation to the two sons, engaged in what is now a simmering clash of personality between the first lady and the current vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, as it was with the former occupant of that office, Joyce Mujuru since the first lady is the closest associate of the president, and in traditional systems, separating family and state is hard.  That is a different issue for the Zimbabweans to settle, as all top office in undemocratic countries is risky but rewarding.

Incidentally it wasn’t too much for South African authorities to figure out which way to act as family affairs spilling over into affairs of state has been away of life in that country for a while, and that isn’t only because of business associates of President Jacob Zuma in the now infamous Gupta family links. 

There is also the matter of a recent book on the last days of Nelson Mandela, where the book’s author apparently suggests that the hand the revered South African leader and a global icon of political morality was holding at the time he died was that of Winnie Mandela. She was his wife for a few years before he was sentenced to life in prison, and a torment on his life after he came out of jail, February 1990. She never came home before midnight for the two years after her husband was released, implying that he was an icon all right, but not her real man.

Bringing up a story where it is Winnie rather than the globally respected Graca Machel who was on Mandela’s side as he approached his death is typical of the sort of arcane palace politics that would be more helpful if it came from Swaziland with King Mswati’s populous household than from South Africa, but of course the cultures aren’t far apart. In addition, there is a streak in South Africa of treating Graca Machel as Mozambican, and even in the aftermath of Mandela’s death she was made to wait in line to receive a permit as one among notable guests, not that her presence was something anyone would take for granted. It is similar to our own culture, that when a husband died the in-laws move in to grab property, throwing the children among kith and kin so that the wife or widow is left to go on her own way, as inheriting widows is frowned upon.

At times local political culture has plenty to contest with accepted diplomatic norms, and there is a wider culture out there, at times appearing to be enshrined in certain facets of international law, where South Africa has other instructive experience for the latest brush with such norms.

 It is the issue of failing to arrest Sudanese president Omar el Bashir after he attended a summit of the African Union, that is, for South Africa to pretend that the  Sudanese leader just happened to be in the country, as if he was a fugitive, with someone wishing to claim a reward for enabling arrest of a ‘wanted’ person. Voices were being raised that he be arrested, whereas that would be like provoking war between South Africa and Sudan, to target its missions or officials anywhere.

If one was taking a head count, there is no doubt that all those who were on the side of arresting President al-Bashir would now be counted on the side of those who felt that Grace Mugabe should have been hindered from returning, and face charges in court. They even countenance the idea of spending time in jail as a fine is not a guarantee in a case of the sort, and are completely oblivious of what that would mean for the rule of law not just in |Zimbabwe but in |South Africa, as the fallout brings masses of people to the streets. 

How safe would South Africans be in Harare after that, and what would be the retaliatory action of the usually violent mobs in South Africa, even when they didn’t have as handy an excuse to be violent as this one was surely likely to be? That is why President John Magufuli has a streak overly suspicious of sores of non-governmental organizations, for the way they are wont to take a state on a path to anarchy if given the chance.