A common narrative has emerged in the wake of Robert Mugabe's ouster in Zimbabwe: His undoing can be blamed on wife Grace's greedy grab for power. Actually, this narrative is being cast as a "tale of two wives," writes Zimbabwe-born novelist Panashe Chigumadzi in a Washington Post op-ed. The idea is that if Mugabe's first wife, Sally, hadn't died in 1992, she would have kept Robert Mugabe's abuses in check. Instead, the narrative goes, Sally was replaced by Grace, who has been manipulating the now 93-year-old Mugabe for decades toward her own ends. It's a convenient tale for Mugabe's own Zanu-PF party as it seeks to rebrand itself while "sweeping all that went wrong into a Grace Mugabe-sized hole."
For one thing, the idea that Sally would have restrained her husband is a stretch. She was by his side, after all, during some horrible abuses in the 1980s, writes Chigumadzi. As for Grace, she is clearly "no saint. But she has also done nothing without Robert Mugabe’s endorsement (and indeed that of many others in the party)." If she went too far in trying to solidify herself as her husband's successor, that's more on him than her. No, the one true villain in Zimbabwe's tale is Robert Mugabe, who ruled by the gun and was ultimately ousted by it. To say otherwise "is at best simplistic and at worst misogynistic," writes Chigumadzi. Click for the full column. (Read more Grace Mugabe stories.)