By Prince Tongogara
President Robert Mugabe cut a forlorn figure at the podium delivering Zanu PF 6th Congress Keynote address in the sweltering Zimbabwe summer heat but his sorrow may have been influenced by the reality that this is a sham congress where half of the presidium was conspicuously absent at the high table.
Mugabe painstakingly choreographed crowning as Zanu PF and Zimbabwe life President was punctured when out of favour Vice President Joice Mujuru and secretary of administration Didymus Mutasa snubbed the event despite last minute behind the scenes negotiations for them to attend.
For two hours Mugabe delayed his grand entrance into the marquee tent as last minute efforts were made to have Mujuru and Mutasa come. The 12 000 boisterous delegates had been warned to be respectful to Mujuru and Mutasa when they come to preside over the congress in line with the party constitution.
With the duo’s non-appearance, parliament’s presiding officers – President of Senate Edinah Madzongwe and National Assembly Speaker Jacob Mudenda – were plucked from the crowd and asked to fill in the empty chairs on the high table.
Zanu PF national chairman Simon Khaya-Moyo with a straight face duped the congress delegates that the high table constituted the party’s presidium fully aware that Grace Mugabe, Madzongwe and Mudenda were fake presidium members.
A subdued Mugabe whose hour of glory had been stolen rose to give a tepid opening address.
Mugabe began by apologising to the delegates for the conduct of top leaders particularly in the run up to the congress.
He said the behavior was not consistent with good leadership.
Mugabe said: “We have not behaved in a manner that showed we are united. We were all working for the party. Some of us failed us, while some of us failed you.”
In the last three months party leaders including First Lady Grace had spewed vitriol against Mujuru, Mutasa and all other leaders perceived to be in their camp. The faction was accused of among other things, corruption, extortion, smuggling and treason.
Mugabe said the events had left him with a deep sense of sorrow, that as leadership they had failed to lead by example.
He further decried the failure to observe the constitution in the manner a number of provincial executives were booted out of office.
“Our constitution says that the disciplining of a member is done by the provincial executives and thus we should adhere to the constitution and not use our hatred in disciplining those we disagree with,” Mugabe said.
This is the first time that Mugabe conceded that the suspensions of nine provincial chairpersons aligned to Mujuru were done in an arbitrary manner.
However, when everyone thought Mugabe was sincere in his pain of the party on the brink of splitting he exposed himself as shedding crocodile tears when he launched into a verbal tirade against Mujuru and Mutasa.
Mugabe said Mujuru and Mutasa behaved like “thieves” when they absented themselves without notifying the party.
“You see, they are not here today. We wanted them to come so that they would meet you,” he said, “We did not stop them, but they just sneaked without informing us, like thieves.”
In a short one hour, delegates had seen two of Mugabe’s many faces he uses to control his stranglehold on power in the party and country.
Come Saturday, Mugabe will be enthroned as the life-president with imperial powers but the shine in the crowning moment has been taken away by Mujuru and Mutasa’s absence.