Once again Harare was brought to a near stand-still on Wednesday as ZANU PF supporters from across the country marched through the streets of the city at a short notice call by the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association.
Thousands of men and women dressed in their party regalia gathered at several points on the outskirts of Harare and the march commenced at about 1130hrs with much singing and sloganeering.
The march was in solidarity with President Mugabe and the First Lady Grace Mugabe following a spate of negative media coverage in the last few days after the events in South Africa where it is alleged the First Lady was involved in a controversial encounter with a South African model over her (the model) involvement and dealings with her 2 sons, Robert and Chatunga, in a Johannesburg Hotel. The story triggered outrage and ridicule across the globe with some sections of the local media and factions within the party taking Grace Mugabe’s name and reputation to the woods. One of the rogue war veteran leaders, Matemadanda, has always had a party when the First Lady is in any kind of controversy calling her by all sorts of names . Social media was awash with derogatory postings hitting at Grace Mugabe, her children and ultimately the President.
As thousands of people arrived at the party headquarters and converged around the open air podium, there continued to be more singing and chanting, waving of placards with divers messages all in support of the First family. People danced to some popular Chimurenga beats throbbing out of a huge public address system. Proceedings started at around 1330 hrs as dignitaries began to arrive among whom were members of the Politburo of the party , women and youth league executives from all the countries’ ten provinces. Government Ministers present were Ignatious Chombo, Home Affairs minister and ZANU PF secretary for administration , Sydney Sekeramai , Defence Minister and secretary responsible for War veterans in the Politburo , Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri , Nyasha Chikwinya ,Chris Mushohwe , Patrick Zhuwao , Saviour Kasukuwere and Mandi Chimene Provincial Minister for Manicaland and a War Veterans leader.
Speaker after speaker came to the podium beginning with the War veterans leader, George Mlala , who bemoaned the state of the War Veterans Association which has not being spared from the infighting and factionalism within the party as 5 of their senior leadership among the Chris Mutsvangwa and Matemadanda went their own way and formed a rogue Veterans Association and this move necessitated their expulsion from the party .
Next to address the gathering was the ever boastful Mandi Chimene who started by brushing off the names she has been called by her foes in and outside the party. She went on to give credit to the First Lady for the stunning work she does in looking after the President. She described Grace Mugabe as a War Veteran by association as she looks after our ‘simbi ye basa’ translated ‘work tool’ amidst loud cheers from crowd. She reiterated that ZANU PF is a principled party with one leader Robert Mugabe. She referred to anyone in the party or in the country who insults the First Lady as ‘bastards’ who insult their own mother.
A representative of the Women’s league Lettina Undenge gave a rendition of the good works the First Lady and her family are involved in such as orphan care while the National Youth Chairperson, Kudzai Chipanga pledged the unwavering support of the youth league to the First family and any party program they may be called upon to execute. He referred to himself as the first born of the Mugabe family.
The guest speaker Dr Ignatius Chombo hit the nail on the head when he answered to the concerns of the War Veterans by emphasizing that expulsion from the party is automatic dismissal from any affiliate organization of the party. He trivialized the activities of any other war veterans association as the majority and more significant war veterans work with the party. He appealed to members of the party who have aspirations for senior party posts to pursue their aspirations within the dictates of the party.
He also took a swipe at the irresponsible use of social media which has dealt a serious blow to the image of senior party officials and gave stern warning of possible prosecution and imprisonment should anyone transgress the drawn lines. Dr Chombo concluded his speech by confirming that 21 February has now been declared a national holiday to be known as the Robert Mugabe National Youth Day. This came after a spirited appeal by the Kudzai Chipanga led youth league to declare the birthday of the President a national holiday. At the last presidential youth interface rally held in Chinhoyi, Chipanga had given the relevant ministers an ultimatum and decreed that they would not be awarded V.V.I.P status at the next 21st February movement gathering in 2018 if they had not put in place and effected modalities for the national holiday.
There are several interpretations to the event as one school of thought attributed the necessity of calling for the event at such notice to another level of infighting within the ruling party. It is said the war veterans association who called for the meeting were showcasing their prowess and control over party supporters and how they still have influence over senior party officials. The conspicuous absence of the First Lady , however, dealt a blow to the alleged motive but if the crowds are to be used as a barometer of the influence of the ‘authentic’ war veterans association then the so called ‘ rogues’ have stiff contention . ZANU PF is already geared up for the 2018 elections and is reinvigorating all its organs in anticipation of another election victory as the days draw closer. We look forward to more drama in the party itself and in the camp of its contenders as the battle for control of the Nation persists.