HARARE – A number of people have tried to understand the kind of person vice president Constantino Chiwenga’s wife, Marry, is. She has refused to let her newly-acquired status define the way she dresses, and even found nothing amiss with the tattoo on her arm.
The second lady, as she is now known, opened up to the Daily News on Sunday’s Bridget Mananavire on the kind of person she is and the life she lives. Below are excerpts of the interview.
Q: How would you describe your personality?
A: I believe that I am a very loving person, I am very friendly, I am very open to criticism but I am who I am and I don’t change to fit into anybody’s portfolio. I just want to remain the person that I have always been, the person that I am today and hopefully, to be a better person, more than what I am today, because you know as you grow things change.
I am very energetic, I am very vocal, I enjoy being at home , I don’t go out, I don’t party, Monday to Friday I am working, Saturday Sunday I stay at home or I go to the farm with my husband.
You never see me at a baby shower or at any party; I hardly go to weddings, unless it’s something to do with government. I don’t have any friends so there is no pressure, zero pressure to go anywhere. So if I’m not at home during the weekend then I am at the farm with my husband and my children.
Q: Why do you not have friends?
A: It has been like that for a couple of years. I used to have a friend, my sister was my friend and then she passed on in 2004, her name was Michelle and after that, I just closed myself and I have never had friends after that.
Q: And since you don’t have, who do you share the burden with?
A: It depends what kind of stuff it is, if it’s work stuff, what I have here, I don’t consider people I work with as my workers. I consider them as family. So, because they are with me all the time from morning until whatever time I leave this place, there is nobody who leaves here if I’m still here. So my work and my family at work and then when I am at home it’s children. I talk a lot with my children because my husband is very busy. And of course, even my security team or my security detail, and it’s more than enough for me. I like it that way.
Q: Do you not feel the security limits you in a way?
A: There is nothing that I do that I don’t want them to see, I want them to see everything that I do because I’m not doing anything mischievous. I don’t feel that I have lack of privacy I do just fine with them and I enjoy their company. We are all good together, we are cool like that. We are a family, a closely-knit family, there is nobody out there who can come and tear this family, the family that’s here, apart.
Q: Is it hard to convince your husband to do stuff with you. Also with the clashing of programmes, how hard is it?
A: It’s not difficult at all, my husband knows all my programmes, he knows when they are held, why they are held. So, the golf tournament, he knows when it is and he doesn’t go anywhere, when it’s the week for that.
When we have Miss Zim, he knows, he doesn’t go anywhere. He always says it’s a time for me to support my wife in her other area of entertainment so he doesn’t go anywhere.
He will come and sit there, eat and drink, mix and mingle with everybody who is there and I’m grateful for that. It’s not like I have to go home and sit him down and say “Soko I was asking please, I beg you I want you to come where’, no, there is nothing like that. He knows golf day May 26, and will say VaMaGumbo what am I wearing, is my bow tie okay and I will be like, yes.
Q: Do you dress him at times?
A: All the time, there are things that he never used to wear before that he wears now because he thought “Okay, I am older and more mature than my wife, so if I dress like this then obviously she is bringing me down to her age”, but now I see that those are the things he enjoys wearing, my husband never used to wear jeans but now he loves them, he will wear pants and blazers and nice shoes and shirts and hats, so yeah.
Q: Turning to your dressing, I see a whole lot of … macramé on the rack behind you.
A: I know people say I like showing my shoulders, that’s me and I will not change. So I always say whether they like it or not, they can’t change who I am and this is me.
I dress exactly how I want to dress. I don’t change because people say I must change no, I change because I feel the change is necessary. Michelle Obama dresses like me and people applaud her and appreciate her for that because she is not trying to be someone else. Melania Trump dresses like I dress and everybody loves it, no-one complains.
It’s very myopic for people to say because you are wearing a dress that is sleeveless of whatever then they say you are crazy, I don’t pick it up from that context. When I leave home like this, my husband loves it, if I wear a short dress, my husband loves it.
If I wear jeans depending on where I’m going, my husband loves it. I will never leave home with a dress that my husband doesn’t approve of. The outfit that I wore at congress, when I walked out of the bedroom my husband was like ‘oh my, VaMaGumbo, makachena (You are looking smart), today I am going to walk holding your hand, jokingly he said it, so that I can show you off. And people started saying oh, her boobs were out, we could see her cleavage whatever. If you got it flaunt it, why hide it?
Well, it’s not my problem that there are women out there who can’t wear that. The reason why people complain is that they know they cannot wear the same things that you are able to wear. I like looking very classy and very sexy, that’s me, because I have sex appeal, so I don’t change.
For the next I don’t how many years as long as I’m alive, you will see me dress this way, I’m not gonna change. There is an MP that came here . . . and we had a small talk and finally she got to her subject about my dressing. She said she had been sent by women from the party to maybe convince me to wear African attires and things like that, but I refused and I said: “I am not trying to fit into anybody’s league”, my husband is happy with the way I dress and it’s not about to change. And you can take that back to them .
People need to understand I started doing modelling in 1995, we are in 2018, this is when they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. They cannot teach me new tricks. If anything, they are the ones who can come so that I help them to make themselves look better.
Even if I wear party regalia, I will make sure it’s been designed the way I want and the top is what I want it to be. And I will go for my very sophisticated look. I have never tried to fit into anybody’s circle and I’m not going to try.
And they haven’t had a problem with my hair lines or said oh they are for school children.
I wear macramé, Kiki Divaris is the one who taught us to make these and I like these. And we also make them to honour Kiki.
Q: And then there is the tattoo, that has also become topical, what’s the meaning behind it.
A: I had it a long time ago, early 2000 that’s when I had it. Now it’s like this because I’m trying to remove it, because my husband wants me to remove it, so I am doing it for him not for me. So it’s like this because of the laser removal and it’s very painful, so they keep doing it until there is nothing.
I like tattoos and I have one more, but I’m removing just this one. Models in general like tattoos because they like art, they are artistic. When I used to model I used to be the “Queen of Sophistication”.
Q: Your hairstyle, the lines have also been a talk.
A: Someone said to me “Oh you are pretending to be poor that’s why you were plaited lines” and I said no that’s not the idea, in winter you will probably see me with a $2000 Brazilian wig or whatever, but now it’s hot and I like my comfort. So right now this is my hairstyle because I don’t have money but because I want my comfort and these lines are exactly what I need now.
I have been doing this since November and it has become a trend. It’s not for show, it’s for me.
Q: Where do you usually travel to?
A: If I travel, I travel with the same people, including my work family even if it’s for pleasure. I can go to Hong Kong, I can go to Dubai, I can go anywhere. My children’s favourite is Dubai, because if it’s for pleasure I go where they want to go.
Q: How many kids do you have now?
A: I have six.
Q: Aren’t they a handful?
A: No, I take them to school every day, I am a hands-on mom. We have lots of drivers but I take them to school. I believe that is my job to take them to school. If they have sports, I take them for sports. If there is a competition there for moms, I participate. If there is tug of war, I will do it.
Q: Are they not treated differently at school because they are the vice president’s kids?
A: No, they are treated normally like their mom. I want my children to be children and allow them time to grow, so they are not treated differently. I am happy with the treatment they receive at school, they are treated like everybody else and I like it that way.
It like if you meet me on the road and you introduce yourself, I will never say who I am, people with powerful husbands want to be known. I am so and so, don’t you know me, but I will never say it. I’m just a natural. If you hear anybody saying I show off or whatever that person doesn’t know me. A lot of people claim to know me but they don’t
From my office, I go straight home, I don’t stop anywhere. When I leave my house to come to the office, I make one stop, drop off my children and from there here at work. If someone says I want to take you for breakfast I do not go, if someone says I want to take you for lunch I don’t go, for dinner I don’t go.
Q: You seem to like dancing a lot, do you just dance at home since you do not go out?
A: I like dancing. My husband knows that I am a dancer. You know during that Operation Restore Legacy, I was under a lot of pressure. I suffered from depression because my husband wasn’t staying at home, my kids were bothering me about where their father was, why they don’t see him anymore, even my son said to me “Mommy I don’t like daddy’s new job”. I said to him no my son, daddy doesn’t have a new job , it’s just that there is something that he is doing.
I was under a lot of pressure, I had stress I lost a lot of weight, I wasn’t eating properly I. I was very sad, so when we had the inauguration, I was letting the stress go.
Q: You also seem to be a huggy person?
A: When the President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) came back, I went to pick him up, of course, I hugged him. That’s part of the hug festival that people talk about.
You will find I don’t hug people that I don’t know or who I have no relations with, so I have a very close relationship with the president and his family. I have a very close relationship with Supa (Mandiwanzira) and his wife.
Now there is a guy that I gave a very tight hug who was wearing a khaki trouser which circulated with people saying VP Mohadi’s wife was in shock, that guy is my nephew, he is the VP’s sister’s child. People comment all these things because they don’t know how we are.. I’m unapologetic about it and I am going to keep doing it, I cannot ignore my relatives because I am the VP’s wife.
My husband was a general, I respected his job, I respected what he did, now he is Vice President. When I look at those two posts, they are equally powerful, even more so have I changed from being a general’s wife to being a VP’s wife, no, I am still married to the same man, because the post is not what I married. I married Constantino Guveya Dominic Nyikadzino Chiwenga, that was the person that I married, I didn’t marry his position, I married him. So I remain that person.
Q: Are you on social media?
A: I don’t go on social media, I’m not on Facebook, I used to be on Instagram my husband told me to close it and I did. I’m not on Twitter, I’m not on anything, my husband said to me “If you want to be happy, stay away from searching yourself on the Internet, don’t go on social media you will live a happy life.” So I am living a happy life with none of those things
Q: Which sport do you play, do you play any?
A: I don’t play any sport, golf I organise but I don’t play. I don’t even know how to play golf. I don’t even go to the gym. And I eat anything and everything and this is me.
Q: So what’s your favourite music?
A: I like love jams, I like country music, I like Shona songs from long ago, the likes of James Chimombe, Leonard Dembo, Marshal Munhumumwe, Alick Macheso, he is my all-time favourite. I love him, I love him to bits and Jah Prayzah. I also like rhumba, I dance a lot to rhumba, I like Extra Musica. And also gospel, in the morning, I listen to Kudzi Nyakudya , when I leave the house I play his song three or four times then I pray.
I go to the Roman Catholic, I wasn’t born in the Catholic Church. I was born in Salvation Army, junior soldier then senior soldier, my husband is catholic , now I’m catholic
Q: So in terms of business what are you up to?
A: I am stepping down as national chairperson of Miss Zimbabwe Trust, but I remain a licence holder. I still own Miss Zimbabwe. My executive committee is the one that’s going to be running it, I will get them the funding, I will get them everything they need.
And Musha Mukadzi again, it’s the same people. And well, we will be doing events, we have a travel company, we supply pharmaceuticals and we are diversifying into other things.
So I will focus on my charity, I will still advocate for attention on cancer. As a second lady, I also stand guided by my first lady, if there is anything she wants me to do, I am happy to oblige and also support my husband in what he does.
Q: So do you trust everyone around you?
A: I don’t trust everyone I have around me, I know everyone around me and I’m happy with them and I love them too much, everybody. I love them to bits and I will do anything for them.
That’s Nyarai, she my PA. She lost her grandmother just last mother just last month and I went to the hospital to see her and when she died, I went to the funeral in Kambuzuma and people were shocked to see me and were like, “you are the second lady of the Republic of Zimbabwe and you are in Kambuzuma” and I was like “yes, what’s wrong with Kambuzuma? Where do you want to see me?
They said “Maybe in Borrowdale” and I said “no, right here that’s where I want to be”. Over the weekend, I was there for the memorial service. What I am saying is she is there for me as much as I am there for her. And one of my drivers lost his mom and I gave him my car for a couple of days to go mourn his mom, some money to help with the funeral.
Unfortunately, I could not be there because I wasn’t feeling well. I normally would go, when there are funerals, I go.
My au pair lost her daughter two years ago, but when she was sick, I sent her to Trauma Centre in Borrowdale, she got treatment from there but passed on. We arranged everything for her.
She is from Mutare, I drove to Mutare to Basil Bridge and stayed for three days and whilst I was there I remember the uncles saying “Let’s hurry so that Mai Chiwenga can return to Harare on time” I said no, if you finish at 6 o’clock I will be here because that’s what I am here for. Do what you have to do.
I think a month later, seeing as it was weekend I said, this time I’m taking you with me to Mutare for the memorial service. So he obliged. We spent the night in Mutare and went for the memorial service.
I’m very compassionate about the people I work with, that’s why I said I would do anything for them. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s within my reach, I will do it for them.