At least 100 000 people are expected to turn out for a march in support of Zimbabwe’s veteran leader, Robert Mugabe. Dubbed the Million Man march, the event is being organized by Zanu-PF’s Youth League to coincide with Africa Day celebrations.
The march follows an earlier protest by the opposition calling for President Mugabe to resign over the deteriorating economy.
At a taxi rank, the Youth League is out in force distributing posters for the march. Posters are being stuck on the bonnet and boots of the cars. The youth are hoping to drum up enough support to meet the million mark.
People at the rank say they will march, but they want a platform to raise their concerns. “The march is for us as youth to show our support, but we also want to tell our leaders that life is tough. I have never known what it is to have a job. We want jobs,” says a protester.
The Youth League says it aims to bring 100 000 people from each of the countries ten provinces. They will march from different points around the capital and converge near the party headquarters at an open ground they have called Robert Mugabe Square.
President Mugabe will address them there. The Youth League says they have organized the march for Africa Day to celebrate President Mugabe’s contribution to the continent and to the country.
Zanu-PF Youth League Deputy Secretary Kudzai Chipanga says, “Some provinces have pledged to surpass that number, it is part of our mobilization plans we need to do stocktaking. We do not need to be taken by surprise when it comes to elections to find that we don’t have people.”
Reports say the march will cost up to $500 000. It has been criticized for being extravagant when the majority of Zimbabwe are unemployed and the drought has caused widespread food shortage.
Chipanga says,”I am glad that some people are speculating these amounts. Why I am glad is that these are not coming from the government these are out own personal resources. This is a party programme mastered by the Youth League. It is unfair for people to cry foul saying you are wasting resources whose resources?”
The timing of the march is significant. The economy is in a crisis. Just last month the opposition mobilized a massive rally from the same ground, and called on President Mugabe to resign.
Within the ruling party, the veteran leader is battling to contain the power struggles to succeed him.