The Zanu PF Congress will not only go done at the pinnacle of extravagance on the ‘crowning’ of Robert Mugabe as life-President of both party and country but also as the moment he re-writes history in the capital by reclaiming opposition spaces in the capital.
The congress, the largest Zanu PF has ‘staged’ since independence in 1980, will be attended by 12 000 delegates with a significant number coming from regional liberation movements and international revolutionary organisations.
Among the liberation movements will be African National Congress (South Africa), FRELIMO (Mozambique), SWAPO (Namibia), MPLA (Angola), UNIP (Zambia), BDP (Botswana), Cha Chamapinduzi (Tanzania) and the Chinese People’s Party (China).
The congress for the first time has borrowed from South Africa’s ANC where it will hold a business expo on the sidelines of the congress. Big business and state owned enterprises have paid not only to exhibit but also meet policymakers directly.
Mugabe and Zanu PF have played their cards by the choice of the congress venue – Civic Grounds adjacent to the Rotten Row Magistrates Courts. In a short four weeks the large open dusty square has been converted into a state of the art convention centre.
Air conditioned marque tents have been set up, paved roads constructed, temporary presidential offices and restrooms, a 3000 VIP parking bay, street lighting, Econet set up a mobile base station, Africom has provided data network and ZBC has set up an outside broadcasting van for live transmission of the events.
The congress proper commences Thursday after Mugabe through his wife Grace and rented crowds have obliterated internal dissent. All suspected Joice Mujuru allies have been purged from the party and strongly warned not to set foot at the congress venue.
Among those purged include Mujuru, secretary of administration Didymus Mutasa, party spokesman Rugare Gumbo, Nicholas Goche, 9 provincial chairpersons, over a hundred central committee members and several provincial leaders.
To show that he means business or his fawning acolytes have rechristened civic center – Robert Mugabe Square. One of the new roads has also been named after Dr. Grace Mugabe. These temporary but widely covered changes will remain stuck in the collective memory of the nation.
It could not been a coincidence that Mugabe chose the civic grounds as his ‘crowning venue’. The Zanu PF congress could have been held at City Sports Centre, Harare International Conference Centre, University of Zimbabwe Grounds or even Borrowdale Race Course. However, the civic grounds is symbolic of his obliteration of the recent opposition MDC-T memory in the national psyche.
Only last year, the MDC-T on the eve of general elections gathered more than 50 000 of its supporters on the square in a rally dubbed – Crossover. It was a moment Morgan Tsvangirai firmly placed his hat and intention to lead Zimbabwe. MDC-T not only renamed the grounds – Freedom Square – but also filled it with a sea of red crowd that left an enduring memory to those who witnessed the occasion and millions across the globe who watched it on television or read online or print media.
Mugabe knows the world media attention will be on him and his wife, Grace. He knows too that this grandeur will be compared to MDC-T’s Crossover Rally. In one elaborate stage-managed show, Mugabe and his minders know the world will eat from their hand and his enduring legacy will be played to the world and Zimbabwe will forever be linked to him and the political dynasty he is building.
Mugabe the showman has done the world again. He did it on the international stage at Durban World Sustainable Summit and New York United Nations headquarters. Now the crowning moment he speaks from his seat, Harare, with the world listening.