Chaos as Mugabe opens Parly
HARARE – Harare came to a virtual standstill with a massive traffic jam as President Robert Mugabe made his way to officially open the Fifth Session of the Seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe yesterday.
Security was tight and the city centre was crawling with security details.
Getting into the Central Business District (CBD) was a nightmare for travellers and motorists alike, with some dropping off or parking their cars on the outskirts of the city.
The lockdown of Nelson Mandela Avenue to make way for Mugabe’s British style procession caused a traffic nightmare in Harare, with the morning rush hour seeing all roads in the CBD clogged, with officers at major intersections directing traffic.
“They have locked us out. The better part of the city is a virtual no-go area just because the President has come to town, it’s not fair,” said a disgruntled motorist who declined to be named.
Thousands flooded Africa Unity Square next to Parliament, but everyone was subjected to a thorough search.
Chauffeur-driven in a century-old vintage, Mugabe made his way from State House in a huge procession that included policemen on horseback and the latest top of the range vehicles.
The veteran ruler – fond of denigrating Britain and its western allies – rolled in a black Rolls Royce flanked by his wife Grace as he opened Parliament amid centuries-old British pageantry.
His long and colourful procession from State House arrived amid blaring music and a wailing motorcade.
Soon after his arrival, he inspected a guard of honour mounted by soldiers from the Presidential Guard who had stood in the sweltering heat for almost half an hour.
Police on horseback, donning a 100-year old British South African Police uniform, escorted the President.
A full complement of Zimbabwe’s top military brass was on hand to receive the President. Looking resplendent in a dark suit and a chequered white shirt, Mugabe sang the national anthem at attention as four MiG jets flew past, followed by a gun salute.
Mugabe then inspected the smartly-dressed soldiers before retreating into Parliament.
Just after Mugabe entered the House of Assembly, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku and his contingent of Supreme Court justices followed closely behind clad in the colonial red gowns and off-white wigs called toupees – worn by barristers in Commonwealth countries. Military generals followed closely behind.
The usually buoyant Mugabe did not respond to his rancorous supporters’ praises and chants. The 88-year-old leader looked haggard and seemed to drag himself through the proceedings.
Hordes of youths, women and members of the apostolic sect members sang “Gabriel mutungamiriri” or “Gabriel the leader,” in reference to Mugabe’s second name. Some shouted that Mugabe should rule forever.
The State opening was attended by head of government Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, legislators, ministers and diplomats.
Two giant television screens beamed the Parliament proceedings in Africa Unity Square, with full coverage of Mugabe’s speech.
Unlike the violent scenes that characterised last year’s State opening of Parliament at which some MDC supporters were bashed while Mugabe preached peace inside the house, yesterday’s event was largely peaceful.