Kuda Bwititi, Harare Bureau
IN a show of common purpose not seen in years in the country, countless multitudes poured into the streets of Harare yesterday in support of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and demanded a bold new economic and political path for the nation.
Harare was a sea of singing and dancing people from across political persuasions, who all had one call: national renewal. That so many people turned out on such short notice from the organisers, the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, speaks volumes of the popular support for the ZDF’s decision last week to intervene in national affairs.
Last Wednesday, the ZDF — under the command of General Dr Constantino Guvheya Dominic Nyikadzino Chiwenga — rolled out a political and socio-economic stabilisation intervention. That intervention has already seen several senior Government officials taken into custody for causing social and economic suffering in Zimbabwe.
Yesterday, diverse groups merged in the streets to hail this move, while many more marched to State House or gathered in Highfield where they demanded that President Mugabe step down.
The people held placards bearing all manner of legends: some decrying corruption, others castigating First Lady Dr Grace Mugabe and her G40 faction cohorts, and some saying President Mugabe must leave office.
Military personal deployed on the streets since last week’s intervention were lauded for their commitment to their country, while people sang songs in praise of Gen Chiwenga and his fellow top brass.
The sheer number of well-designed clothing emblazoned with legends extolling the military or calling for a new dispensation belied the fact that the nation was essentially only told on Friday that liberation war fighters wanted a solidarity march.
Government ministers, senior officials from virtually all political parties, and representatives of different organisations joined the people in their marching and at Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield. In Highfield, the line-up of speakers included Zanu-PF’s Cdes Patrick Chinamasa and Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri; MDC-T’s Mr Nelson Chamisa and Mr Douglas Mwonzora; National People’s Party leader Dr Joice Mujuru; war veterans Cdes Tshinga Dube, Victor Matemadanda and Douglas Mahiya; and activists Pastor Evan Mawarire and Prominence Mkhwananzi, among many others.
Zimbabwe Grounds was the scene of much jubilation in 1980 when President Mugabe returned home after the country had won its Independence.
Yesterday, 52-year-old Patrick Chieza — who was there in 1980 — told our Harare Bureau: “I was here in 1980, here at Zimbabwe Grounds. This day has made me think of 1980. The crowd was almost the same, but today, there were definitely more cars and there was more colour to the event.
“I have attended many occasions at these grounds, including the One-Million Man March and Zanu-PFs launch of its manifesto in 2013, but this is the biggest crowd I have ever seen since the gathering in 1980. My prayer is that from today, our country will change for the better, just as it happened when we gathered here in 1980.”
War veteran Cde Amos Sigauke added: “I am happy to be here at Zimbabwe Grounds, particularly because in 1980, I was part of the war veterans that were jailed and I did not get an opportunity to come here and celebrate with others. But being here today has made up for the disappointment of those years.
“This is a refreshing moment for Zimbabwe. When we went to war, we fought for equal rights, but the past few years have been painful as I reflected whether we went to war so that (President) Robert Mugabe and Grace Mugabe could turn our country into their private company.
“It had become excruciating that our President was so out of touch with reality as he seemed not to care about ordinary Zimbabweans and the challenges that we were facing. I have forgiven him for his sins but it should be clear to him that his time is now up. He should go and rest peacefully.”
And even with so many people of differing political opinions on the streets, there were no reports of violence by last night — even as the singing and dancing continued long after dark. A man who elected only to be identified as Wayne said, “Well, what can I say? As you can see the people are happy, most importantly, there is no violence. Nobody can rule forever except God. So maybe what we need to do now is put all things in God’s hands so that Zimbabwe can prosper. This is a beautiful country and its people deserve better.”
Zimbabweans in South Africa, Namibia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia also had solidarity marches yesterday.