THE ruling Zanu PF party has organised a “homecoming party” and “thank you rally” for President Robert Mugabe, who is expected home on Saturday after attending the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The planned rally comes at a time the 92-year-old Zanu PF leader is facing increasing pressure from local opposition parties and his peers in the Sadc region to step down due to old age and his failure to arrest the country’s economic meltdown.
Zanu PF Harare provincial commissar Shadreck Mashayamombe on Thursday urged party members to be at Harare International Airport on Saturday afternoon to welcome their leader and “show him support for his sterling work”.
“Every party member is invited to Harare International Airport on Saturday at 1pm, as we welcome the President, Cde RG Mugabe, and to support the great work he did together with our friends based in America. Everyone must be at the airport,” Mashayamombe’s WhatsApp message to Zanu PF members read.
Mugabe, who on Wednesday was urged to step down by Botswana President Ian Khama, is expected to address hundreds of supporters in a show of power.
But Zimbabwe People First spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire yesterday laughed off Mugabe’s planned homecoming party, as a waste of the country’s resources at a time over four million citizens were facing acute food shortages.
“It’s an insignificant meeting especially for a dying small party like Zanu PF, which thrills itself by frog-marching people to its rallies to seek relevance in the eyes of the region and international community,” he said.
MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora said: “The decision to hold that so-called rally is only meant to celebrate the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe, this is the time that Mugabe must resign.
“He is presiding over gross human rights violations in Zimbabwe … we hope the people of Zimbabwe will not lose heart in the struggle.”
At the rally, Mugabe is expected to respond to Khama’s calls for him to step down over his failure to run the country and being a burden to the Sadc region.
In a marathon travel schedule, Mugabe left the country last week for Venezuela to attend the Non-Aligned Movement summit before heading to New York for the UN General Assembly.
Mugabe had just flown in from Zambia, where he attended the inauguration of President Edgar Lungu, who defeated his main rival, Hakainde Hichilema, in a disputed poll last month.
The 92-year-old leader left the country at a time street protests were escalating due to economic decline and increasing unemployment and, according to insiders, he would use the platform to respond to Khama.
Already, placards rebuking Khama were reportedly being printed last night and would be displayed at the airport rally.
Mugabe has refused to step down, declaring that he would continue to rule Zimbabwe as long as “my people need me”.
His wife, First Lady Grace Mugabe, has also scoffed at suggestions that her husband should relinquish power — vowing he would rule from the grave in the event he dies in office.
Mugabe has already been endorsed as the Zanu PF presidential candidate for the 2018 elections.