Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa Zimbabwe's Beloved 'Amai' - British Herald
September 30, 2022
Africa Articles


Some people bring with them an air of confidence and compassion so palpable that it rubs off on you- and Her Excellency Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa, First Lady of the landlocked Southern African country of Zimbabwe, is one such personality. 

But far before she became Zimbabwe’s First Lady, she was already doing her best to uplift the disadvantaged in the country through her philanthropic work. Most of her noted work is to empower the underprivileged and her intentions are carried out under her Angel of Hope Foundation. Whether it is her decades worth of this experience, her compassionate nature and motherly presence or just a defining personality trait, her aura is one that puts everyone at ease. 

Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa has the outstanding ability to express her humility, with every action and with every reaction. Her humble demeanour, which is quite uncharacteristic of someone in her position, helps her get across to people across all levels. This, coupled with her fiery passion to lend a hand and concern to lend an ear, make her loved by every Zimbabwean. 

We delve into this story- of a visionary, change maker, leader, an extraordinary woman and Zimbabwe’s beloved Amai (mother). She has rightly earned the title of the mother of the Zimbabwean nation of 17 million people. 

The woman before becoming the First Lady

Born in 1963, Her Excellency Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa is at the brink of turning sixty with a number of stellar achievements to her merit- many of them, well before she assumed the role of First Lady. 

Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa came from humble beginnings in Mazowe District in Mashonaland Central Province of Zimbabwe. She did her primary and secondary schooling there before moving to the capital, Harare where she joined the civil service and worked for the Central Intelligence

Organisation. Dr Mnangagwa later joined the hospitality industry and worked for the Rainbow Tourism Group (RTG). She has been actively involved in politics since the early 1980s, setting the path for her future as a Member of Parliament in Zimbabwe and regionally. 

Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa briefly left Zimbabwe, the place she called home, to pursue further studies in Switzerland where she earned a degree in Hotel and Tourism Administration and graduated in 2001. A few years later, she was back in Zimbabwe and graduated with a MBA degree from the Midlands State University in 2008. This is where she is  currently pursuing her PhD as well. She has also been conferred with an honorary Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree by a reputed Indian institution called the GD Goenka University of India, in recognition of her outstanding philanthropic endeavours. 

Mrs Mnangagwa has always been a philanthropist at the core of everything she does. Whether she is playing her role as a wife, mother, politician or First Lady, it is always philanthropy first. 

She even gave up her position as a Member of Parliament in order to dedicate a bulk of her time towards philanthropy, renouncing all political subdivisions and boundaries as she did so. On assumption of her role as First Lady, she has intensified her initiatives of empowering the vulnerable by forming the Angel of Hope Foundation.

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa is hugged by an elderly widow whose house floor she polished using cowdung during one of her visits and initiatives to improve the lives of the elderly where she would do laundry, prepare meals and feed with the elderly in all the provinces around the country

Amai- being and creating the Angel of Hope 

Her Excellency Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa is best known for her philanthropic work done under her foundation that goes by the name of Angel of Hope. The foundation was created as a platform to carry out her many charitable ventures and mobilise resources from well wishers who would like to partner with Dr Mnangagwa’s philanthropic missions to support those in need. As the Founder and Patron of the Angel of Hope Foundation, Amai Mnangagwa has spearheaded philanthropic work that has touched and transformed thousands of lives in Zimbabwe. 

For the women at the brink of breaking.. 

Over the course of her tenure as First Lady of Zimbabwe, she has championed several women-first projects to enable marginalised women generate income to look after their families. Her forever focus when it comes to women empowerment has been to get families to reach a level of self-sufficiency, by eliminating domestic Gender Based Violence (GBV) resulting from over dependence on a single income, usually as a result of the father being the sole bread winner for the family. Through her initiatives in this domain, she has directly impacted numerous lives positively, while also raising the participation of women in Zimbabwe’s economic growth. She ensures women empowerment through programmes which enable them to take up the ownership of livestock and the production of handcrafts through sewing, knitting and the making of household detergents, a move which has also seen an improvement in hygienic standards in households. She was also instrumental in encouraging cross border trading by women as a means of encouraging self-sustenance. 

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa hands over books to school children whose uniforms she personally sew and donated to them in one of the marginalised communities

For the creation of a generation of self-sufficient women.. 

Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa has involved the spouses of traditional leaders as agents of community empowerment. They serve as ambassadors to influence other women within their communities to engage in self-help projects to ensure that every household is empowered. Each spouse received two productive goats to fuel this nationwide goat-rearing project, while also championing the growing of drought resistant traditional grains to ensure that hunger is averted in rural communities. On similar lines, she has also played an influential role in setting up women’s banks

(Mikando), a programme she started in  the Midlands province during her tenure as a Member of Parliament long before she became First Lady. This project helped finance better homes, purchase of vehicles, setting up businesses and managing school expenses. Through her Foundation, the First Lady has visited various communities, championing the improvement of living conditions. She donates foodstuff, bed linen, stationary, ICT and medical equipment to uplift them. She was also responsible for initiating comprehensive self-help projects like fishponds, nutrition gardens, orchards and free range chicken rearing.  

In addition to the work with women, through the Foundation, Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa has also empowered marginalised communities and orphanages through the establishment of farming ventures such as fish farming to make them self-sufficient and profit making, without the need of dependence on external sources. The project has not only helped to improve the nutrition standards in communities, but has also encouraged participation by disadvantaged populations in agricultural programmes and financial growth.

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa looks at the reusable sanitary wear sewn by girls in an initiative she is sponsoring to assist vulnerable girls all over the country who can not afford sanitary wear

For the expecting mothers..

Of the many achievements, one of the most noteworthy works done by the Angel of Hope foundation is the construction of shelters for pregnant women who resided in remote regions. This helped them avoid the risk of home deliveries with inexperienced and unqualified midwives who may have put the expecting mothers in harm’s way.

For educating & vocational training of one and all.

The Angel of Hope Foundation has also partnered with the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) to educate communities- already impacting the lives of thousands of people. There are several courses available for open learning across domains which could largely aid the population. The programme has also given an opportunity to those whose educational journey was disrupted for one reason or another, to once again pursue their education and earn a certificate. 

For educating the future of Zimbabwe..

The education of young children is a cause dear to her, to the extent that, through her Foundation, she assists in paying school fees for children who need assistance, through scholarships. She has also been at the forefront of a feeding scheme to prevent hunger in school students from farming communities or within rural areas. Through her efforts, students who used to work in order to earn daily wages to survive were rehabilitated, educated and trained in vocational skills to ensure better future outcomes. 

She has been applauded by the Ministry responsible for Primary and Secondary Education and other stakeholders for her keen interest in addressing and engaging adolescents through interactive sessions across schools country-wide discussing issues around child abuse, early marriages, teen pregnancies, drug abuse, bullying and school drop-outs. Dr Mnangagwa has also been hailed for her popular Nhanga/Gota/Ixhiba project, which is a culture and moral restoration programme for young boys and girls. 

For the wellness of the nation..

Amai hosts a series of Family Fun Days aimed at promoting wellness and recreation, especially in women and the elderly through sport. She is at the forefront of a series of workshops for widows & orphans on Inheritance, Property Rights and Deceased Estates. Dr Mnangagwa is also known as a

champion for healthy eating and physical fitness through championing programmes that encourage general physical activity and excercise.

For the ignored.. 

Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa also took on her role as the country’s First Lady and health ambassador with the onus it deserves. She rolled out numerous projects under the Foundation that are created to rehabilitate and empower sex workers, from their dismaying plight, across the country. She chose to get closer to these women, rather than pushing the other way, by reminding them that they all are worthy. As the country’s Health and Child Care Ambassador, Amai Mnangagwa’s concern about sex workers goes beyond the immorality of their work, but also the health risks they are subjected to whilst engaging in sex work. Issues to do with sexually transmitted infections, cervical and related cancers have driven her determination to influence sex workers to seek alternative ways of earning incomes. From training in various self help projects, to initiating thriving farming ventures which are already bearing fruit, the former sex workers have turned a new leaf in their lives. 

The approach used by Dr Mnangagwa to reach out to these women involves opening up of conversations, finding solutions and problem-solving of issues faced by these sex workers through engaging them at their level. 

For the menstruators’ health..

Menstrual Hygiene was another matter that Amai has been extremely involved with. She is the leader who silenced the stigma around menstrual health, a refreshing approach to those who silenced any talk regarding periods. She urged people to opt for sustainable menstruation practices by adopting reusable cloth sanitary pads. The approach on this front is two-fold: the empowerment of women at the grassroots as they generated a livelihood from sewing and making the reusable sanitary pad as well as the environmental benefits of switching to a sustainable menstruation methodology. Dr Mnangagwa has rolled out the reusable sanitary pad making project in such a way that the Angel of Hope Foundation engages women in various communities, trains them to make the pads and provides the sewing machines, the cloth material and related accessories. The resusable pads are then given to the less priviledged young girls and women in these communities. The pad sewing and distribution project has resulted in reduced costs, less hygiene concerns and disposal hassles when compared to using disposable sanitary napkins. 

– For marginalised communities

Marginalised communities like San community in Plumtree and the Doma people in Kanyemba were previously excluded from the programmes and services, but Amai has made a sincere effort to extend a hand to make them feel a part of the Zimbabwean nation. 

The San people come from nomadic roots, because of which they have no fixed abode forcing them to travel around. Their hunting activities to gather food sparked conflicts with the authorities, especially since most of the land they functioned in were classified as National Parks or Conservatories with protected wildlife. However, the First Lady transformed their lives with the aid and construction of permanent structures. She also spearheaded projects such as community gardens, in a push to make them self-sufficient .

The rare tribe of Doma people were known to live in isolation. This was attributed to a genetic mutation leaving them to only have two fingers and two toes. Not unlike the San people, the

Doma people survived on hunting and eating tubers from wild plants while living in isolation from mainstream society. They formerly inhabited treehouse-like temporary structures to keep safe from wild animals. Through the Foundation, the First Lady helped them set up permanent habitation as well as set up income generating projects like the farming of castor beans. In addition to this, she also set up a clinic in their community to ensure healthcare delivery to the masses. Child marriages were rampant among this tribe, which Amai seeked to put an end to too. Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa has played a major role in trying to put a full stop to early childhood marriages across the tribe and the country.

– For the health of the nation..

In recognition of her selfless work towards women and children’s health, the First Lady was appointed as the Ambassador for Health and Childcare. 

First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa was also behind the Free to Shine Campaign- a promising mission targeted to be achieved by 2030 to end HIV/AIDS in children to keep the mothers and their young ones in good health. Dr Mnangagwa has been steering Free to Shine towards her vision for an HIV-free generation of young ones and improved accessibility to healthcare for youngsters known to have HIV. The campaigns, which have been made into an urgent priority, include numerous rounds of awareness, events and on-ground work to positively impact several lives. The First Lady is an active member of the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD) known for fighting against the spread of HIV and actively engaging and educating the youth on sexual health matters. During the 23rd General Assembly Ordinary Session of OAFLAD in Niamey, Niger, she was elected to the position of Vice President of the African First Ladies Organisation as a result of her hard work, a recognition of her noticeable efforts, even beyond the national borders of Zimbabwe. 

Health awareness is another important part of Amai’s agenda- especially for non-communicable diseases(NCDs) like diabetes, hypertension, and mental health issues. Amidst the pandemic, Dr Mnangagwa played a pivotal role in leading from the front in terms of awareness regarding COVID-19 and its vaccination. She has been facilitating free medical specialist services to marginalised communities through her outreach programmes and partnerships with volunteer doctors. Amai Mnangagwa has also used the medium of radio to spread the NCDs message, registering an overwhelming response from the listeners who tune into her programmes.

 Dr Mnangagwa’s concern for the health of the nation also triggered her desire to facilitate the provision of free cervical, breast and prostate cancer screening through her mobile clinic screening programme across Zimbabwe. This programme has touched all corners of Zimbabwe including rural areas and farming communities. Those screened in the mobile clinic get their results within a short period of time, and in case further medical attention is required, patients are referred to health institutions where they get further assistance. To date, thousands of women and men from across all communities have benefitted from this life saving initiative. 

Dr Mnangagwa, through the Angel of Hope foundation, has also donated medical supplies to rural clinics and hospitals as a way of complimenting efforts to keep health centres well equipped. She has also donated wheelchairs and crutches, not only to clinics and hospitals, but also to individuals who are in need. 

Touched by the plight of women coming to Harare from far away places to seek specialist cancer treatment in the capital,  Dr Mnangagwa, through the Angel of Hope was moved to established a home in Harare where women coming from far away places to seek cancer treatment can be accommodated in a warm, peaceful and comfortable environment, which allows them to enjoy peace of mind as they receive the medical care they require. This also prevents the women from the risk of contracting other diseases which are associated with uncomfortable living conditions, especially when one is already unwell. 

A strong believer in prevention being better than cure, Dr Mnangagwa in her capacity as health ambassador, also launched the National Human Papilloma Virus Vaccination (HPV) drive, an anti-cancer programme which has benefit more than 800,000 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 . This vaccination programme will ensure that young girls will be safe from the HPV, thereby creating a future generation of healthier women and mothers for Zimbabwe.

– For the elimination of Gender Based Violence

       Realising that no meaningful solution can be reached in dealing with GBV without engaging both the perpetrators and the victims, Dr Mnangagwa launched a programme to engage men in honest and open discussions on the root causes of GBV, drug abuse, and tackling the reasons behind marrying off underage girls. Known as the Male Engagement programme, men of all ages eagerly participated in the eye opening discussions, coming up with resolutions on how to deal with the issues raised. Interestingly, other issues also came under the spotlight such as men’s health, fertility and the reluctance by men to seek medical treatment when they fall ill. Dr Mnangagwa urged the men to be more responsible husbands and fathers, which will result in better families and communities.

 Furthering the GBV fight, in 2021 Dr. Mnangagwa launched a toll free telephone help line 575 in her office for victims of GBV to call in and get assistance and referal services. The line is operated by qualified staff, and sometimes Dr. Mnangagwa herself answers the calls. The helpline recieves hundreds of calls weekly from women and men in difficult domestic relationships and situations. Some who have received assistance through the helpline have called back to express their gratitude for the life changing intervention. 

-For the elimination of drug and substance abuse

With the scourge of drug and substance abuse taking a major toll on many people across all social strata in most communities, Dr Mnangagwa this year launched an anti-drug abuse programme known as The First Lady’s Drug Survivors’ Soccer Tournament. This is a tournament in which survivors of drug abuse, both male and female, participate in sporting activities. The thrust of the programme is multi-pronged; to provide youngsters an alternative source of recreation and entertainment, as well as to identify and nurture sporting talent while encouraging physical fitness through sport. 

– For the restoration of dignity to the infertile 

The world over, women are often blamed for the inability to conceive a child within a marriage. This is despite fact that men may be equally to blame for childlessness in the marital union. Women who have been blamed for infertility are often treated as outcasts not only by their in-laws, but even within the families they were born into before they got married. This often pushes them to put their health and lives at risk by taking various concoctions in an attempt to enhance their fertility. Dr Mnangagwa has committed herself to tackling such issues head-on, as a way of destroying the stigma faced by women who are unable to bear children. Amai Mnangagwa has initiated a programme to identify women affected by infertility and has offered them training in various income generating projects as a way of enhancing their self-confidence and restoring their dignity. Through this initiative, women who were being looked upon as worthless are now able to live productive lives within their families and communities.

For as long as she has been on the scene, Dr Mnangagwa’s priority has been on the upliftment of families, women, children, the elderly and disabled populations with her many involvements and missions. 

Food for Thought: Cooking with Amai

Food is a topic that has the power to connect the world- and Dr Mnangagwa recognises this strength, leveraging it in order to put Zimbabwe on the global map. To celebrate the gastronomical value of her home country, the First Lady launched her own cookbook aptly labelled Cooking with ‘Amai’, Zimbabwe Traditional Cuisine. 

On this front, her attempt to put Zimbabwean cuisine on the world’s map was also channelled through a nation-wide cookout competition for traditional dishes. Through these efforts, along with rekindling the love for traditional food, they were also pushing gastronomic tourism and healthy eating habits for the prevention of disease.

Safe and Clean Zimbabwe

Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa was also honoured as the Patron of Environment by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate in recognition of her passion and hardwork towards environmental preservation. The First Lady played an instrumental role in advocating for a safe and clean Zimbabwe where she leverages her label of being the ‘mother of the nation’ to address the citizens as a mother would. She appeals for a cleaner country, starting out with the clean-up of the capital city and other parts of the country, including rural settlements, with the support of volunteering citizens. 

With wide scale planting of trees and a focus on natural resource protection, she plays a part in mitigating climate change. To achieve her vision of a greener Zimbabwe, she works closely with authorities like the Forestry Commission as well as community chiefs and their families, school-going children and the common people. This has resulted in the planting of millions of trees which help combat soil erosion and its ill-effects.

Auxillia Mnangagwa went the extra mile to include miners in her mission for better environmental protection by advocating the need to cover gullies created in their search for minerals. She also promoted floor-tiling of rural homes to improve hygiene and health conditions.

Her role in using an all-encompassing approach in improving the country’s environment and concurrently upping Zimbabwe’s tourism potential through better resources and hospitality has been well appreciated.  

Affectionately referred to as Amai, translating to ‘Mother’, Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa is strong, decisive and hardworking, qualities which enable her to do anything to help her children (of the nation) out. 

Even though Her Excellency Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa  is the First Lady of Zimbabwe, she is not a personality that merely remains in the shadows of her husband, His Excellency President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa. A wife, mother and grandmother endowed with limitless love for her country, she brings a light of her own- so bright and so effervescent, leaving a lasting impression in the hearts of everyone she encounters.

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