BULAWAYO – President Robert Mugabe yesterday tried to exorcise the demon of rejection by the people of Matabeleland by begging thousands of bused supporters who thronged the White City Stadium to vote for his party in Wednesday’s elections.
Mugabe’s party was completely routed in polls in Bulawayo in the 2008 harmonised elections where it failed to garner a single seat in the House of Assembly since the coming on board of the MDC as an opposition party.
The 89-year-old leader looked visibly overwhelmed by the bused crowds, admitting it was the best crowd the party has gathered in years.
“I thank you for coming in your numbers. This is the city of Kings that has made many people. This is the best crowd we have had in many years. I say long live Bulawayo,” Mugabe said.
Hundreds of people bused to his rally at Mucheke Stadium last Thursday were left stranded after trucks that ferried them from various districts disappeared.
Since 2000, Bulawayo has been an MDC stronghold. Still haunted by the Gukurahundi massacres of the early independence years, Zanu PF seeks to regain its former glory on July 31.
MDC held a rally at the same venue last weekend and attracted thousands of supporters, casting questions as to which of the parties will garner more votes come elections.
The Zanu PF leader said that the people of Bulawayo had offended his party by voting for MDC in 2008 and implored them to change their minds, come election time.
“We assure you that if you vote for us, the industry will come back to life,” the octogenarian leader said.
Mugabe seemed to have lost his steam as he failed to charm the crowds that started gathering as early as 8am.
He made frantic efforts to capture a seemingly disinterested crowd, whom some believe attended in order to receive T-shirts and caps.
He shocked the crowd when he seemed clueless that Bulawayo residents were going for days without water.
“I understand that you get water three times a week. Why? Ligeza njani?” Mugabe chuckled, adding that government is making efforts to make water available to the city.
Mugabe’s two-and-half-hour-long speech failed to wow the crowd that braved the blazing heat and resorted to a demographic lecture about how the population of Zimbabwe should grow.
An unidentified woman fainted during Mugabe’s speech, an incident which shifted attention from his speech before she was ferried out of the crowd.