Dear Family and Friends,
Zimbabweans don’t see or hear much from President Mugabe these days.
There’s plenty of gossip and rumours but mostly we have to wade through speculations, assumptions and a never ending supply of ‘un-named sources’ who are quoted ‘on condition of in order to try and work out what’s really going on. Funerals, anniversaries and elections are the best times to get an insight into the thinking of Mr Mugabe and the direction that may lie ahead for our country.
Every year Mr Mugabe gives a special birthday interview to ZBC TV. The interviewer is usually the same man and year after year he squirms and cajoles, his questions never taxing or probing, his manner never antagonistic or critical.
Mr Mugabe, in power for 32 years, has just turned 88. Every night of the birthday week, which ZBC newsreaders said was the ‘Birthday of The Year,’ the state controlled TV was awash with endless renditions of Happy Birthday all of which were annoyingly pronounced beth-day. You would think that Presidential praise singers or even ZBC producers would ensure the correct pronunciation of the word for the much advertised occasion.
Then came the birthday interview. Mr Mugabe was asked what he thought about reports that there is a clause in the draft constitution that would bar presidential candidates from standing for election if they had already served two terms. “Cowards, cowards, cowards!” said Mr Mugabe. “Why are they afraid of me? Why should they ban anyone at all?”
Then the President was asked if he had found a successor to replace him and he said it was the members of his party who would select someone once he had told them he was ready to retire. “But not yet,” Mr Mugabe said, “at this age I can still go some distance, can’t I?”
So there it was, in a couple of brief sentences, the road ahead for Zimbabwe had been laid out for all to see.
After the birthday interview the propaganda frenzy turned to what ZBC called the “Birthday Bash of the Year.” A giant birthday party was being arranged in the Eastern Highlands city of Mutare. “All roads lead to Mutare” screamed ZBC who started their nightly news bulletins all week with a countdown to how many days were left until the birthday party.
The Independent press reported that vendors were moved out of areas near Sakubva stadium, the venue for the party. Two days before the ‘Birthday Bash of the Year,’ workers were said to be operating day and night, even under floodlights, to get critical renovations done. These included toilets and ablution facilities described as being in a “sorry state,” a car park, VIP stand and fence around the stadium. One day before the event TB news footage showed men trundling around with wheelbarrow loads of cement.
In my home town which is on the main highway to Mutare, traffic built up dramatically. Streams of very upmarket cars raced past, all sporting their little Zimbabwe flags on their dashboards or rear-view mirrors. Scores of extremely well dressed and undoubtedly well connected people gathered outside the Hotel on the main road, double and triple parking and obstructing traffic apparently of no consequence. Then came the security crews. Green trucks filled with helmeted men, lights blazing, speed limits ignored.
Strange, we the ordinary Zimbabweans thought, as we watched the Mutare birthday frenzy. Was there any coincidental connection between this and the recent suspension of the white Mayor of Mutare. Was there any connection between this and the continued detention in custody in Mutare of a 74 year old white ex- farmer, Peter Hingeston who was arrested when he missed a court hearing for medical reasons. Mr Hingeston had his farm seized in the mid 2000’s and retired to a house in the Vumba mountains. Now the government apparently want that too and Mr Hingeston is being prosecuted under the Gazetted Land Act for the alleged illegal occupation of his retirement home. And lastly, we wonder if there is any connection between the Birthday Bash of the Year and the third week of 16 hour a day power cuts, or the Birthday Bash and the grindingly slow, impossible to use internet and email connections all week.
We wonder in silence and we join the dots. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy
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