AMID thunderous ululation and buzzing of thousands of Zanu PF supporters at Nkayi business centre on a hot Sunday afternoon, several people could not hide their anger at being used for optics.
At 7am, hired Zupco buses started arriving, carrying supporters to the event. By midday, the number of Zupco buses at the rally had risen to nearly 100.
Some of the supporters said they had woken up as early as 3am to walk to selected pick-up points along main roads.
Attendance of the rally was not optional, as district chairpersons had threatened to conduct a roll call to identify absentees.
For many people, the journey to the venue was challenging due to the poor state of roads with one supporter saying they spent three hours on an 80km road stretch which should take one hour under normal circumstances.
As news began to circulate of an accident involving a Zupco bus from Binga which was carrying supporters to the rally, some supporters felt fortunate to be alive. Sadly, one person lost his life and several others were injured.
Zanu PF Matabeleland North provincial chairperson Richard Moyo confirmed the accident.
“Yes, it is confirmed that one person was trapped under the bus and died, and a few others were injured and rushed to hospital. Some of them have been checked and discharged,” he said.
After their arduous journey, the tired “supporters” formed a long queue to receive rally “starter packs”, which included party regalia, a loaf of bread, bottled water, chicken pieces and fried chips and a fizzy drink.
Once they got their packs, the “supporters” were ushered to the dusty school grounds where they sat, closely packed together.
Sitting in the scorching sun for hours waiting for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to arrive in his presidential chopper, the supporters were occasionally ordered to stand up and dance.
Mnangagwa arrived around midday and the mood became more sombre as his security team took over the show.
The master of ceremony had earlier asked popular singer Chief Shumba Hwenje to ‘educate’ the crowd on how they would welcome the President on his arrival.
“You must show that you are happy, cheering the President. You must remove your cap and wave it in the air,” Hwenje said.
The crowd obliged, creating a well-choreographed electric atmosphere once Mnangagwa entered the venue. The uproarious cheer went on as Hwenje belted his popular song Mai Welly.
The President danced for two minutes before taking his place for the national anthem. Half way into his speech, the weary crowd became restive and tried to walk away but were ordered to remain seated.
During the hour-long speech, Mnangagwa was constantly being cheered by members of the infamous “forED” affiliates who have been attending all his rallies, while the majority of the supporters looked dejected.
In his message, Mnangagwa pledged to uplift the marginalised Matabeleland North province to bring it at par with other provinces.
He expressed gratitude for the overwhelming support and warned against violence, tribalism, regionalism and hate speech.
“I am so happy to see you all here in these big numbers. It tells me Zanu PF is alive, vibrant and strong. Let us all unite as one sovereign and undivided country of Zimbabwe, developing it for the next generation,” said Mnangagwa.
After the rally, supporters rushed back to the Zupco buses as Mnangagwa flew back in his presidential helicopter while other party bigwigs were chauffeur-driven to their various destinations.