By Sij Ncube
Harare, May 26, 2016 – ZANU PF Wednesday pulled out all the tricks in its political bag to press gang thousands of impoverished citizens, mostly villagers, to attend the so-called million-man march in Harare.
The march, which came on Africa Day, was ostensibly in honour of President Robert Mugabe.
While the argument rages in other fora on how many people attended the march, the crowd that gathered at the open space between the city centre and the Harare Show Grounds was still enough to show Mugabe was indeed a master in commandeering the full might of his state machinery to his advantage.
This is despite the majority of the estimated 13 million population survived on less than $2 a day.
Dropped at the outskirts of central Harare in private and public vehicles, including school and college buses grabbed from authorities, the Zanu PF faithful shrugged off a cash crisis, food-shortages and the general poverty in the nation to demonstrate support for the “icon”.
Party leaders fell over each other to hero-worship Mugabe in front of the multitude.
But despite numbers on his side, the much-hyped march was largely a monumental damb squib that failed to address the myriad of problems in Zanu PF and the country, let alone positively excite the equally subdued market.
Mugabe’s speech was bereft of solutions on how an economy which is battling cash shortages and company closures can be revived.
There was nothing on the promised 2,2 million jobs promised by his party just before the 2013 polls and certainly nothing on how the current cash crisis could be resolved.
Instead, the Zanu PF strongman concentrated on the factionalism ravaging his party before dangling carrots to the hapless youths, who included the elderly, by promising them land and residential stands.
The event appeared to give credence to assertions Mugabe sponsored the march to pull rank on party politicians eyeing his job and to justify his cling on power at the ripe age of 92.
Critics are adamant Mugabe has squandered his legacy through years of misrule.
While he could be credited for introducing positive populist policies which ushered in free education, health, gender equality, and access to land by blacks, critics say electoral fraud, human rights abuses, political intolerance, corruption and the general mismanagement of the economy has dented his legacy beyond salvation.
His weaknesses in the later years of his 36-year rule now eclipse his strengthens, making him more less of a liberation icon in the mould of the late South African leader Nelson Mandela, Nkomo, Robert Sobukwe among other Pan-Africanists that fought black oppression and colonialism in Africa.
However, Mugabe’s apologists have been quick to thrash assertions the “icon” has lost his shine, pointing at the numbers at what the party has named the Robert Mugabe Square, and posting pictures on social media platforms.
The state media has been awash with positive coverage on the march.
In commanding a large crowd, critics say President Mugabe was too desperate to prove he was still popular among his people.
Alex Magaisa, a political analyst and constitutional lawyer sarcastically commented on the march: “It (million man march) is like a chap who, filled with self-doubt, low confidence and confusion, runs naked across the entire village to prove to everyone and himself that he is still a man.”
Ricky Mukonza, a political analyst teaching at Tshwane University of Technology, believes Mugabe is battling to keep his legacy intact before his political sunset.
“Some of Mugabe’s achievements as the leader of government such as successes that he scored in education, health, rural development and land reform have been eroded in the subsequent years due to poor governance coupled with poor performance of the economy. It renders him less of an icon.
“In fact he ate into his legacy and as things are, the man has no real legacy to talk about. The only things worth talking about are people who got land but are struggling to utilise the land because of the inhibiting economic conditions.”
With his insatiable love for power and the Machiavellian politician he is, Mugabe remains one of African’s infamous Big Man and he reinforced it Wednesday as the march puts numbers behind the man.
But do the numbers give him justification for his continued stay in power given his record of bad governance? Only figures of the 2018 polls will tell.