By Peta Thornycroft*
For the first time Zimbabweans can laugh at Robert Mugabe at the theatre without worrying they may be arrested or that the play will be banned.
A new and daring comedy, Operation Restore Regasi, about the soft coup d’etat in Harare last November, has packed out the theatre.
Audiences have been convulsed with laughter as they watch Carol Magena, playing Grace Mugabe, teetering around the stage trying to seduce Constantino Chiwenga, the army commander, while her frail old husband, Robert Mugabe, 93 at the time, is slumped in his chair, asleep.
There was standing room only at the play, which opens with Mr Mugabe under house arrest in his mansion, and Mrs Mugabe shrieking that she wants to leave Zimbabwe immediately and go to Dubai, her favourite shopping destination.
Charles Munganasa based his script on what he imagined the first couple would be saying to one another, and to Chiwenga, shortly after the army took power.
Ms Magena said she was having the “time of her life” playing the former first lady, who emerged into Zimbabwe’s political arena only three years ago and hatched a plan to inherit the top job from her husband.
She said it was easy to portray Grace Mugabe, both physically and emotionally, as the former first lady so regularly appeared on state television.
“She ensured all her meetings were on TV. She is unpredictable, erratic, volatile, even crazy. She said anything that came into her head. We watched as she dominated the media, getting people fired, insulting senior people. She was in control of Zimbabwe.”
The play’s short three-day run was packed out and was extended this week. It closed on Friday but will tour Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Munganasa said the play destroys Mugabe’s legacy: “He was lost within his own political camp and he thought he was untouchable and invincible and he surrendered power to his wife.”
He called the play Operation Restore Regasi, because General Chiwenga cannot say L in English and uses R instead. The army’s campaign against Mr Mugabe was called Operation Restore Legacy.