HARARE - Powerful First Lady Grace Mugabe yesterday stunned Zanu PF supporters — mainly those loyal to embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa — who gathered in Harare yesterday when she told them that President Robert Mugabe would rule Zimbabwe from the grave.
Grace’s zinger, together with the unexpected move by Zanu PF youth league deputy leader Kudzai Chipanga to tell a few home truths to Mugabe about Zimbabwe’s worsening rot and the shameful corruption of his minions and other senior government officials, turned what was supposed to be a boring charade into a political thriller of sorts.
To add to the drama, thousands of supporters bussed from around the country walked out of the so-called million-man march while the nonagenarian — in whose honour the show of force had been organised — was giving what was supposed to be the day’s main speech.
President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace salute the crowd as they arrive.
But as has become the norm in the world of Zimbabwean politics over the past two years, the star of the show was once again Grace, even though she only spoke for a few minutes.
In what was widely interpreted as a thinly-disguised dig at Team Lacoste — as the Zanu PF faction rallying behind Mnangagwa’s mooted presidential aspirations is known — she said bluntly that those angling to take over from her increasingly frail husband should not bother as he would rule the country even after he was interred at the National Heroes Acre.
“… you are irreplaceable president. Tichatokuitai mutungamiri muri muguva paHeroes Acre nekuti tirikuona kuti ndimi munotibatanidza (You will rule from your grave at the Heroes Acre because you are a uniting force for us),” Grace said.
Quoting Jeremiah 1 verse 5 from the Bible, the influential first lady suggested that Mugabe had been chosen by God to lead Zimbabwe.
“... makasarudzwa baba mukaiswa paside nekuti Mwari akanga asingadi kuti musangane sangane nezvakashata (you were chosen by God because He did not want you to be tainted by bad elements),” she added.
Zanu PF supporters scramble for mineral water.
But political analyst, Pedzisai Ruhanya, said the fact that bussed party supporters had walked out on Mugabe was “a clear sign” that the nonagenarian’s popularity was waning.
“Despite the presence of the coercive apparatus of the State, the whole charade was a monumental flop.
“Now people can see that Mugabe’s future is in the past. People are concerned about what they eat and not listening to the same man who has presided over the ongoing decomposition.
“One million people is roughly half the population of Harare and that space is too small for such a number.
“Zimbabweans are not fools, they are aware of the withdrawal limits at banks and the suffering they are going through and therefore they could not celebrate the life of a man who authored their suffering,” Ruhanya said as he explained why nowhere near one million people had attended the demonstration.
“This is the end of an era. Zanu PF supporters and Zimbabweans at large know that they cannot continue to invest their future in a person whose future is now closer to the cemetery,” he added.
A war veteran who spoke to the Daily News said thousands of party supporters had walked out while Mugabe was addressing the gathering because they were “rushing back home after being frog-marched to the demo”.
There were widespread reports that school buses had been commandeered to transport people, as ruling party apparatchiks also moved to shut down market places to coerce the public into attending the march.
Music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi entertains the crowd.
A Daily News crew also witnessed scores of motorists being forced to head towards the so-called Robert Mugabe Square, near the Harare Magistrates’ Courts, while many street vendors hid in the few shops that dared open their doors yesterday to escape being forced to participate in the march.
Meanwhile, speaker after speaker painted a rosy picture of Mugabe and his 36 years in power at the event, even as the facts on the ground are the opposite — with Chipanga the only one to highlight the country’s ubiquitous rot.
“Vari kuchinja motokari kunge hembe (bigwigs are changing cars like clothes). That must be put to a stop,” he said, adding that Mugabe never changed his cars like what his “corrupt” ministers do.
Chipanga also pointed out to corruption at the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority saying officials there were buying cars and houses soon after getting employment, something he said was not in tandem with their salaries.
All pictures by Freedom Mashava.