Mugabe's colonial bling

HARARE - Next Tuesday, President Robert Mugabe presides over one of those lavish ceremonies when he uses centuries-old British pageantry to open Zimbabwe’s Parliament.

The State opening of Parliament, announced in a government gazette last weekend, will as usual be full of pomp and ceremony — a nod to history and British tradition — if outdated and ever-so-slightly ridiculous.

Mugabe, fond of launching belligerent anti-British rhetoric, will open a new session of Parliament amid colonial bling.

The 88-year-old president, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, will end the fourth session of the 7th Zimbabwe Parliament on Monday.

On Tuesday, he will officially open the fifth and final session of the House of Assembly and the upper Senate the following day to outline the government’s legislative plan, expected to lay the groundwork for general elections next year.

After the official opening, Parliament will go into a brief recess, and resume sitting on November 15.

Mugabe, who is seeking re-election, will travel from State House to the Parliament building on Tuesday in a royal procession to perform the official opening starting at 12 noon on Tuesday in the House of Assembly.

At its heart, the official opening is a symbolic reminder of the relationship between the British colonial masters and the Zimbabwe government, and includes a military parade accompanied by unprecedented British splendour synonymous with a royal celebration.

Rolling in his gleaming black Rolls Royce once used by Lord Soames, the last governor of Rhodesia, and flanked by his wife Grace, Mugabe will make his way to the houses of Parliament accompanied by 200 soldiers and escorted by 32 mounted policemen dressed in the 1890 uniform of the British South Africa Police, complete with pith helmets.

It is a task Mugabe has taken on since independence — through more than a dozen elections.

Mugabe has never missed the occasion.

It is usually a display of the majesty of colonial power Britain’s ancient royal and parliamentary traditions as Mugabe arrives resplendent in his presidential bling, with medals, and a full ceremonial sash.

The official opening includes a flypast by four MiG jets as Mugabe stands akimbo on the saluting dais, after which he will retreat inside Parliament and take his seat in the Speaker’s chair.

Bemedalled military generals, then judges in their colonial red gowns and pink wigs, follow closely behind.

Mugabe will then make the customary opening speech to a joint sitting of both houses, outlining the government’s legislative agenda for the new session.

It will be a show of executive power by the veteran ruler in a coalition where he is supposed to be sharing power 50-50 with his partner Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Zimbabwe under Mugabe largely follows British tradition in its parliamentary protocol, including opening annual sessions amid British pageantry.

Hundreds of Zimbabweans are expected to pack a garden park dubbed Africa Unity Square adjacent to Parliament to watch the president and his wife drive in Style to inaugurate the final session.

If Parliament adopts a new constitution, this session may be the final parliamentary session under the Lancaster House Constitution.

And the new session of the House of Assembly and the Senate would be the last before polls due next June, when the current Parliament expires. - Weekend post

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