Friday, December 9, 2011

The power of a First Lady - Zimbabwe Part I

Sally Hayfron Mugabe
Sally Hayfron, a.k.a. Sarah Francesca (Hayfron) Mugabe, was a Ghanaian political activist and trained teacher who married Robert Mugabe in April 1961 in Salisbury. They met in at Takoradi Teacher Training College where they were both teaching. Three years later the colonial government of Ian Smith detained her husband. In 1967 she went into exile in London and spent the next eight years agitating and campaigning for the release of political detainees in Rhodesia, including her husband.

Robert Mugabe was released from prison in 1975 and subsequently escaped to Mozambique where Sally was able to re-join him. It was in Mozambique that Sally found herself in a new role of a mother figure to thousands of Zimbabwean refugees and revolutionaries who had fled from the oppressive colonial government. Her efforts in this role earned her the popular title Amai (Mother).

Three years later she was elected ZANU-PF Deputy Secretary for the Women’s League and in 1980 quickly adjusted to role of the first wife of Zimbabwe’s first African Prime Minister. In 1987 she officially became the First Lady of Zimbabwe when Robert Mugabe became the second President of Zimbabwe. In 1989 Sally Mugabe was elected Secretary General of the ZANU-PF Women’s League.

The power behind the man
During the first ten years of Zimbabwe’s independence, Sally stood by her husband. Zimbabweans had already warmed up to her even though she was from Ghana, and continued to refer to her as Amai (Mother). She was polite, down-to-earth and exerted great positive influence on her husband and under Sally Zimbabwe prospered. Schools, colleges, clinics and hospitals were built countrywide.  It was during this time that President Mugabe and the First Lady realized that the whites’ nerves needed calming, and through Sally’s recommendation, Mugabe adopted the Reconciliation Policy. This policy left the agriculture sector in the hands of white commercial farmers. 

Mugabe was actually more radical than he is now but Sally kept him under lock and key. Her word was always “law and gospel” as Leymah Gbowee would say. She pointed out the consequences of radical land distribution and possibly warned him of losing what they had fought for – Freedom. The rule of law implemented with minimal favor that restored investor confidence and thereby fueled development. The judicial system worked independently without influence from the executive branch and was able to launch investigations of high profile government leaders accused of corruption.

Remembered fondly
Sally Mugabe became the voice of reason behind her husband fashioning the women’s league, mass education, rule of law and the independent judiciary system. She also founded the Zimbabwe Child Survival Movement and in 1986 launched the Zimbabwe Women's Cooperative in the U.K. where she had lived in exile while fighting for independence. She supported Akina Mama wa Africa, a London-based African women’s organization focusing on development and women’s issues in Africa and the United Kingdom.

She had her husband’s ear and ruled Zimbabwe through him. The country prospered and her husband earned the praise of leaders around the world and the respect of his fellow citizens. 

Sally Heyfron Mugabe died on January 27, 1992 from kidney failure. She is fondly remembered with love and affection and is still considered the founding mother of the nation of Zimbabwe.

Next - the contrast. Zimbabwe under Grace Mugabe, the second First Lady of Zimbabwe.

Source: Zimeye


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. greeting from malaysia.i have done reading all your post and it impressed much new knowledge that i gained.please write more.and thank you for sharing your knowledge.(;
    December 9, 2011 8:13 AM

  3. It is encouraging to hear your comments. Thank you.