|Up close with the First Lady|
|Saturday, 09 June 2012 21:13|
The First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe is known to many not just as the wife of the President, but also as a woman with a charitable disposition. The media have also picked on her, invariably focusing on her dressing, health and “expensive taste”. Our Deputy Editor Nomsa Nkala (NN) spoke to Amai Mugabe at her orphanage in Mazowe last week, delving deeper into these and other issues pertaining to her personal life with President Mugabe.
Some people might say all sorts of things about me because they do not know me or my family well. I think I inherited the dress sense from my parents. It is an in-born art, I would say. I love clothes and design my own.
NN: How early?
NN: He does that?
First Lady: He is crazy, I am telling you (laughs)! He does that; believe me.
NN: That is the accounting degree?
NN: And you, what studies were you pursuing?
It was a good decision. Only a fool can ignore what is happening in China, economically, right now. The President, by the way, spoke about the Look East policy earlier. He was the first person to talk about it and everybody is now following suit. He had a vision. We must all agree that he had a vision because everybody is looking east now.
Even those in the Western world who were looking down on China are now looking up to them in terms of development. I said to myself I must be well-versed with the issues that are taking place there if this is what is happening in that part of the world. I have gained a lot from interacting with the Chinese.
This place (the orphanage and a school under construction) is what it is mainly because of the assistance I received from the Chinese friends I made while I was in that country. I sold my idea to them and they offered support.
NN: Were you commuting to China frequently for lessons?
NN: How was the whole experience for you?
NN: Are you fluent in Chinese now?
NN: But you do communicate well in Chinese?
For me, it meant a lot of sacrifices. It meant not just taking time out to learn a different language, but also having to make the decision to leave my children and husband behind and also all the work I was supposed to do here (at the orphanage).
Imagine that was around the time we had begun building the children’s home. I had two parallel programmes — learning and ensuring work here was progressing. I was working under immense pressure.
However, I must say, it was worthwhile to study the language and mingle with the Chinese, get ideas from them. By the way, the construction of the school is being funded through a grant from the Chinese government.
NN: How much was the grant for?
NN: Is that for both primary and secondary schools.
First Lady: Well, I don’t think so. I would have to go back to them . . .
First Lady: Oh, yes. They would not have just come and given it without me having asked for it.
First Lady: What I want is to provide more than accommodation for my children. When I say they are my children I say so because I am adopting them as my own.
First Lady: Yes, as my own. The 24 who are here, have already been adopted by me and the President. I will look after them for as long as I live . . . I have been reading about other organisations such as this one and they talk about setting up Funds. I intend to ensure continuity and sustainability after I am gone. I am not really a politician, but I think I have a business mind.
That is why I am taking a business-like approach in running this place.
We will probably go out into the community surrounding us to try and assist the underprivileged. It is a farming community. I do not just want to look after the children at the home; I must be able to go out and help in the community as well.
Ever since we started farming here, we have been delivering the largest tonnage of maize to the Grain Marketing Board. And contrary to reports that there was a flourishing orchard of orange trees when we took over, there was nothing, absolutely.
I have been interacting with other organisations similar to mine, learning from their successes and failures.
NN: What drives you to do this?
NN: Does this have anything to do with your background; the way you were brought up?
First Lady: No, Zimbabwean, so is my mother . . . they are from the same province — Mashonaland East. Some people lie that I am South African because I was born in South Africa. My parents were living there.
First Lady: When I was five years old in 1970 and I started living with my mother in the rural areas for that matter. But for me, it was an eye-opener and today I can easily identify with rural people. It made me the person I am today. I actually appreciate the experience that I got there. When we came back from South Africa we were not used to the rural life but I appreciate that my parents decided to bring us back home.
NN: So you went to school there?
First Lady: I miss especially the rural experience I had. I was fun.
First Lady: Very close. As children, we were not only close, but well-provided for because our father was a very responsible man. We wore good clothes always. The only thing I lament is that I never managed to develop a deep bond with my father because we were living here with my mother and he lived all his life in South Africa. He used to come once a year in August for one month. He spoilt us, yes, and he would send us money. We had everything; we ate what we liked, even the house he built for us in our village was beautiful.
Our village, the Marufu Village, was well-known because of the five brothers who all had beautiful houses. I cannot complain really . . . Everybody loved me so much when I was growing up, especially my uncle. He loved me so much. They treated me like this little girl because I was quiet.
First Lady: We were five. I am the fourth born. My brother, the eldest passed away, unfortunately, almost two years ago. I have two sisters and a brother. So, it is the four of us remaining and my mother. I live with her in Borrowdale. I am especially close to my mother. My mother is my queen (laughs). I love my mother.
First Lady: Yes, she is my only daughter. I think I am a chip off the old block. I look so much like my mother.
NN: There have been a lot of stories on your alleged “big shopping sprees” overseas. Are they true?
NN: How do you feel when you read such stories about you?
So I don’t care about what they say. After all, I know what I do, what I spend my time doing. I am not affected in any way. And I thank God because my children are not affected as well. Perhaps it is their way of protecting their father because they don’t seem affected. I feel sorry for my children though, at least I am an adult, but they have not wronged anybody, they have not done anything.
In fact, my children are very quiet and reserved. You know, we are a very quiet family. The President is a quiet person. I am a quiet person. I do not talk much; I do not socialise that much. I am like my mother. She keeps to herself and I do that. So we are very reticent people, so are my children — very quiet kids.
NN: But as a family, do you talk about these things?
First Lady: Aghh . . .we have better things to talk about! You see the work here. I have better things to do than think about what they say in the papers. I don’t care about what they say.
First Lady: Children; oh, we are very close. We talk a lot but I am a strict mother.
First Lady: Strict? I tell them about their future. They must not feel this warmth that they are in and think it will continue like this forever.
They must work hard at school, which they do not do sometimes. But I can say my children are very smart. Even Tino (Robert Junior), he is quite a smart boy, very smart. It is just that he did not do well . . . We used to fight about basketball.
NN: What are your dreams and hopes for them?
They should know that they are going to be on their own in future and they must work hard, knowing that they are going to have their own families.
They don’t keep money on themselves. I give them money as and when they need it, either US$10; US$5 or US$2. You meet Robert today; he won’t be having any money on him.
To be continued next week