Auxillia Mnangagwa is not just the legislator for Chirumanzu-Zibagwe constituency. She is also the woman who is married to one of Zimbabwe’s most powerful man, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa. She says her husband, also known in political circles as ‘Crocodile’, is not the fearsome person that many people take him to be, but a soft, loving and considerate man whom she misses a lot when he is away from home on business. Auxillia (AM) met up with The Standard reporter Blessed Mhlanga (BM) and opened up on many social issues, including her relationship with First Lady Grace Mugabe and Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko’s wife Laurinda. The following are excerpts of the interview.
BM: Who is Auxillia and how many children do you have? Where did you grow up?
AM: I am a mother of three boys, a farmer who grew up in rural Chiweshe. My parents divorced when I was in Grade Three. I was the second born in a family of five.
BM: How was life for you growing up as a girl in rural Zimbabwe pre-independence?
AM: It was very difficult and we had to endure serious hardships. It is this history that has made me a determined and hard-working woman who wants to promote children’s rights and access to education. After school, I would fend for my brothers, collecting firewood, fetching water and looking for vegetables for relish, including fishing at Kumhakwe river. When it flooded we would catch fish for sale. During school holidays, I would go to white-owned farms to pick cotton and soya beans and do many other chores that the pikinini baas (white farmer’s son) would give us to do at the farm and for the white family as he followed us on horseback or motorbike with his shotgun and a sjambok. After that I would dry okra (derere), catch lots of mice and locusts and dry them to take them back home after work at the farm.
BM: Did any of these experiences influence your work today?
AM: Yes, this is why I am taking a stand against early childhood marriages and pushing to ensure people in my constituency send their children to school. Imagine if I had been forced to marry at a young age, I would not have been what I am. So, I am saying parents should give their children a chance and then see what they can achieve.
BM: Talking about being here, how then does it feel to be a VP’s wife and did you ever dream of being one at all?
AM: Ohh no, no, no. I never dreamt of being the wife of a Vice-President at all. I was just a girl who grew up in the rural areas who was content being the wife of Emmerson Mnangagwa, and like anybody else, you wouldn’t know what’s in store for you until it happens.
BM: What kind of man is your husband at home? Is he the same ‘Crocodile’ that he is known to be in political circles, or is he just another soft, loving husband?
AM: At home with me he is very loving and caring. He is there for me such that when he goes away on duty, I feel lonely because he has turned out to be my best friend. Mnangagwa loves his children so much and has taught them to behave themselves in public and not to be showy. He has also taught them that respecting other people is very important.
BM: He is said to be feared quite a lot. What do you think about it and did you ever get to fear him at all?
AM: He is a quiet and very soft-spoken man and is very loving. He has no time to intimidate others. Those that fear him don’t really know him, and no, I have never feared my husband, he is my best friend.
BM: How is Mnangagwa known back at the village? There is talk that he is in line for chieftainship. Does he have chieftainship blood or is he just an ordinary subject where he comes from?
AM: My husband comes from the Mapanzure chieftainship. He is a grandson in the Mapanzure clan. His family and friends back in the village know him to be very, very humble and quiet.
BM: There has been talk of bad blood between your husband and Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko. How do you relate with VP’s Mphoko’s wife and family?
AM: We relate with Mai Mphoko very well. We are just like sisters, but there is distance between us in that she stays in Bulawayo and I stay in Harare. However, it has never affected the wonderful relationship we share. Each time we meet at different functions, we feel very happy in each other’s company and we talk a lot.
BM: How is your personal relationship with the First Lady Grace Mugabe?
AM: She is my senior at all levels. With the First Lady, I have to show respect. She is a very nice and free lady who accommodates other women. She takes other people’s problems to be hers and tries to comfort others too.
BM: When did you join politics and what motivated you into becoming a politician?
AM: I joined politics in 1982 and rose through the Zanu PF ranks until I was in the Politburo. I joined politics because I liked the armed struggle which I saw when I was young. During that time we were being kept in restricted camps which were known as “Keeps” and it was at that time that I felt like working for my people, and that’s what inspired me to join politics in 1982.
BM: Coming from rural Chiweshe, where then did you meet VP Mnangagwa?
AM: I met him at government functions and other meetings and of course he proposed like any other man would do and I could not resist his warmth.
BM: Now that you are the VP’s wife, do you have dreams of being a First Lady?
AM: My husband has already stated that being a Vice- President does not assure one of being President and going to the State House. According to the Constitution, anyone can be President.
BM: You were once reported to be a Central Intelligent Organisation operative, planted to track your husband’s movements by Mugabe — what is the truth behind this?
AM: That was a dark moment in my life. It was an innocent interview which the media chose to twist and misrepresent facts to fit their own agenda. The VP proposed to me like any other man does, and it was courtship which ended in us having a happy marriage. How can one be a planted CIO in a marriage of 31 years?
BM: How have you found Parliament sessions so far?
AM: Parliament is very interesting and it has kept me alert and awake when following all the proceedings. I am learning very fast. Being an MP has given me a chance to work with underprivileged people, especially in the rural community, lifting the standards of living for everybody, especially women. As you might be aware, I started working to uplift women long before I became MP but now being in the cockpit of legislation, I have the power to push for legislative reforms to empower my constituency and the country. I want to promote access to education.
BM: You are constantly referred to as Mnangagwa’s wife. Do you think your success is owed to your husband’s position?
AM: At the time I met my husband, I had already joined politics and I rose through the ranks owing to my own hard work. It is true that the VP is my husband but people should be able to look at my work as a politician and MP without looking at me through my husband’s work. Even in marriages, couples support each other; I support him and he supports me. But, people must judge me and refer to me by my own strengths and weaknesses.