MONICA KAYOMBO, Lusaka
MANY people know her as Commander Grace, a disheartened woman who needs counselling to get over her seemingly bitter past. Often portraying herself as an alluring woman fond of putting on tight-fitting slacks with suggestive postures, Grace’s social media persona has made concerned Zambians worry about her mental health. But Grace, born Thandi Vbuyelwa, says people accusing her of being dejected should take time to get to know her before judging her unfairly. As far as she is concerned, she has never experienced any mental health problem. Grace claims to be happier and healthier now than when she was dating married men who gave her a false sense of comfort. According to her, she changed her name from Thandi to ‘The Grace’ because it was by God’s grace that she chose to embrace new beginnings in her life. “I had to kill the person that was in me before. The person who was in this body I am using used to be a bad person. I woke up one day and God asked me to help me stop (doing) certain things that were bad,” she said. Grace, who is the third-born in a family of five, shares that she has dated two married men for selfish reasons. Her previous chum was a live-in partner who gave her the comforts of life, but deep down her heart, she was not proud of that lifestyle. It was about a year ago when she decided to separate from the rich married man she was dating to start fending for herself as a stroller. That meant giving away the vehicle she was driving and beginning to use public transport for her daily errands. “God asked me to stay away from certain things for me to make it in life. I have since done so and seen that big change [in my life],’’ she says. Recently, Grace caused a stir on social media when suggestive pictures of her started doing the arounds, attracting diverse reactions from people. Some people who claimed they knew her way back said something had gone terribly wrong with her because there was no way she could embarrass herself on social media. Others posted old and current pictures of Grace to show her past and current lifestyles, saying that she needed the help of a psychiatrist before it was too late. The old pictures show a chubby and well-dressed woman, while latest images display a slender Grace making jaw-dropping poses in tight-fitting slacks. But Grace insists there is nothing wrong with her. She says as the adage goes, “do not judge a book by its cover”, people should not draw conclusions about her because they do not know why she gave up the comfortable life she used to bask in. Who is Grace? She is the daughter of Rose Mwale, the first-born in artiste, Anna Mwale’s family. Her command of English is good but the bare truth is that Grace is a grade three drop-out.
“I used to be at Kalundu Primary School [in Lusaka]. I didn’t want school but since they forced me, I had to pretend I was going to school but I just used to go there to sell sweets. I think I was born a business-woman, a leader and not a follower,’’ she says.
Coming from a family of artists, Grace is a former dancing queen of the Mwale Sisters and the Sakala Brothers before she joined songbird Angela Nyirenda. “I worked with my parents [aunties] the Mwale Sisters, and later Sakala Brothers. I later realised that it was important for me to move on,’’ she said. Since her childhood days, Grace has never been a keen follower of trends, but what she wanted. For a living, Grace presently hawks clothes and shoes for men, although she sometimes transacts in ladies’ outfits, too, on order. She says she feels good to dress up people and make them look younger than their age.
On erotic pictures and videos of her that have gone viral on social media, she says they were posted without her consent.
It is her male admirers who like taking pictures of Grace downing tight-fitting slacks and posting them on social media.
Grace says she is no longer the plump woman people used to know because she spends a lot of time exercising and meditating in the gym. She loves her slender body, although some people feel she has shed off some pounds of flesh due to downheartedness. But Grace says she has no reason to get depressed because she is happy to earn her own income without depending on someone else’s other half. She is not ashamed of her new life of being a simple hawker who jumps on public transport to run errands because her business is paying her bills. The mother of two daughters has made up her mind never to date a married man again. “I dated two married men before I changed. The last one I have a child with him and he supports the child,” Grace shares. She has never been married before but was shocked to see people claiming that she got depressed after being divorced by her husband. “I have never been married before. I just have children. I have only dated three men in my life. My ex-boyfriend…. the one I have a child with, the married man whose relationship ended, and another married man I also have a child with,” Grace says. Going by Grace, her immediate past partner treated her like a queen and bought her anything she wanted. She was treated like a second wife, but one day she had to give up that comfortable life because she did not find joy in it. “He used to rent a house for me in Fairview. He was very nice to me, but I had to move on. If I wanted, I would still be with him today. But as a child of God, I was guilty of making a fellow woman [wife of boyfriend] suffer. God actually cautioned me,” Grace says. Grace recalls that she was at pains each time her partner’s wife phoned him to complain about how he was treating her. “That is the reason I had to leave him for her. I can never ever go back to that man because he has a wife and children. “My advice to other women is – keep away from married men, let’s be our sisters’ keepers,” she opines.
Grace regrets having wasted a lot of time with a married man when she has potential to get married to her own man.