Whenever ZANU PF gathers particularly for President Mugabe’s rallies, it is always a colourful event. People are bused in to fill the numbers to massage President Mugabe’s ego and confirm that he still has the whole nation behind him.
So it is not surprising that state trains are commandeered to transport supporters to the venue. School buses and school children are not spared. Everyone is expected to attend. Even commercial vehicles such as trucks are expected to shelf their business for the day to shore up numbers for President Mugabe’s gatherings.
What was on show was ZANU PF’s organisational superiority which can be credited to the party’s propensity to abuse state resources to achieve its political objectives. The party has its own buses and vehicles of course but I counted at least 30 school buses present. Informal businesses had to close for the day, and the Dr Grace Mugabe Trade Centre was completely abandoned with only a few security details guarding the wares that were wrapped and stored in a corner. Not everyone was coerced though as some people paid their way fro Harare to witness the event.
There was heavy police presence including anti-riot trucks as if the authorities were anticipating violence. Could it be because the factional fights that have characterised the party of late meant the threat of extreme violence was there and the authorities had to be on guard? The party could not implode in front of the President. Others were drinking and roasting meat at a nearby shopping centre in Dombotombo.
Inside the stadium, there were mixed signals. The mood was not buoyant. The people had to be coaxed to respond to slogans. Perhaps, this is because half the people present where school children and others who had been dragged along by coercion and were therefore unfamiliar with the party slogans. Morale seemed low.
Secretary for Youth Affairs , Kudzai Chipanga went into overdrive with his praise for President Mugabe saying that even if President Mugabe dies he will rule from the grave with cabinet meetings held at the National Heroes Acre. There were not many takers for this suggestion with one of the youths next to me opining to his friend that Chipanga was now embarrassing the President. Even chiefs and kings die, they are replaced, and the predominantly rural population at the rally may have found this suggestion unpalatable.
Akaromba here Mugabe (does he possess a goblin)? Why else would he rule from the grave? If this was meant to praise the President, it made many very sceptical. No corpse, no matter how great can rule the living .Mugabe is surely not greater than Mbuya Nehanda or Sekuru Kaguvi , so why will he be ruling from the grave? The crowd also failed to respond favourably to the declaration that Mugabe would be life President. The suggestion was met with a muted response.
Chipanga kept reaffirming that Mugabe would be life President and this was met with a muted response. HE suggested those who had ambitions for higher office had to emulate Walter Mzembi who sought such office outside the country. Perhaps the message was meant for Vice President Emmerson Mnagagwa who has been accused of angling to succeed President Mugabe.
There was a clear attempt by Chipanga to by-pass the party’s Vice President. Sydney Sekeremayi’s name was mentioned more times than the Vice President’s. Perhaps it had something to do with the G-40 pronouncements earlier on that they preferred Sekeremayi to succeed the President. However attempts to hype Sekeramayi countered the bold pronouncements that Mugabe’s office wasn’t up for grabs.
When he was not indirectly attacking Mnangagwa , he was demanding land or making other materialistic demands and asking the President to intervene. the audience occasionally showed enthusiasm when issues of loans were discussed.
When it was Dr Amai’s turn to speak, a number of people from where I was standing actually stood up, Yes, perhaps to have a closer glimpse at her. She went on to give a sober, reconciliatory speech departing from her usual verbal attacks on political opponents. The fake accent remained though. I could hear two men next to me praising her for a good speech.
Finally, Angel Gabriel rose to speak. He started with a pompous tone praising himself for how he has managed to outfox political opponents at his advanced stage. I had hoped that he would live up to the excessive praise he had received by improving the mood of the crowd. It remained flat. Initially people who had rose to have a closer look, began to trickle out after about 30 minutes into his speech. One or three people mentioned that they feared being left behind by the transport they had used to come to the rally.
By the end of it all, I could not help but borrow from Dr Amai’s SWOT analysis to make sense of what had happened. I left with a few distinct observations. Firstly I could see that ZANU PF has organisational strength far superior than its opponents. Part of the reason is its ability to reward or punish citizens either by dishing out state resources or withholding them. Dr Amai’s SWOT analysis made me realise that ZANU PF is only invincible in the short-term for as long as it has the power and ability to reward with material benefits those who follow the party.I realised that under Mugabe, ZANU PF is now a materialistic political party which has lost ideological clarity. It has been redused to a ritualistic party which has to constantly hold reaffirmation rallies to massage its own ego.