Mugabe’s Party Stages Zimbabwe March to Support ‘Icon’

  • Demonstration to express support for 92-year old leader
  • Party’s youth league slams state corruption, inefficiency

Thousands of backers of Zimbabwe’s ruling party marched in the capital on Wednesday in support of President Robert Mugabe, spokesman Simon Khaya Moyo said.

“This is a special event by our dynamic youth league in support of our icon,” the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front’s Moyo said by phone. “The theme of the march is solidarity with the visionary and iconic leadership of our glorious party under President Mugabe.”

The so-called million-man march in Harare follows a large protest against corruption and poverty held by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change on April 14. It falls on the annual Africa Day holiday and comes amid increased criticism of Zimbabwe’s government for failing to resuscitate an ailing economy marked by company closures, an unemployment rate of as much as 90 percent and persistent cash shortages. Mugabe, 92, has ruled the country since independence from the U.K. in 1980.

“We know that there’s a lot of negative publicity spread by private media and the West, to the extent that our grassroots supporters are now confused, so this march is to restore confidence,” Zanu-PF Youth League Deputy Secretary Kudzi Chipanga said late Tuesday by phone.

Party supporters, bused into the capital, Harare, from the country’s 10 provinces, are gathering at assembly points to march to Robert Mugabe Square, near the party headquarters, west of the city center.

No Difference

“It won’t make any difference,” David Coltart, a former opposition education minister, senator and human rights lawyer said in a phone interview from Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo, on Wednesday. “People will still wake up on Friday hungry and jobless.”

The youth league’s Chipanga used the march to criticize government ministers for corruption and inefficiency.

“Government officials and executives in the corporate sector are hardly ever in their offices. We don’t see them, and their lifestyles don’t match their incomes,” he said in a speech near the ruling party’s headquarters. Ministers seemed to “be competing” to change their cars faster than their shoes, he said.

Jonas Nyaungwa, who sells tomatoes and kale to passers-by in the capital’s sprawling Mbare Market, said the march was a farce.

“I’ve been forced to close my stall for the day and take part. It’s ridiculous, but I dare not argue, even though the march is for what?” Nyaungwa said. “For nothing, because nothing will change. It’s just a demonstration of power.”

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