BULAWAYO – At the beginning of this week, when I performed my routine task of checking that everything was in order at the old people’s place in Bulawayo where I have been a resident for more than a year, I made a startling discovery at the reception hall.
Normally, my check would conclude with an amused chuckle: there would be the photograph of the then mayor of the City of Bulawayo.
He and his wife would be standing with bright smiles on their faces, flanking the person of President Robert Mugabe, then the prime minister of the country: he too would be smiling into the camera.
The picture was taken shortly after independence in 1980, either at the old people’s home, immediately after its inaugural opening, or much later, after April 18.
My visit to the reception hall was made after the story of the “one million-man” march, which Zanu-PF “prophesied” would display how much support the party enjoyed in the country — before the 2018 elections.
A few days later, I was in the reception hall for something different.
But I made my routine check on the picture and discovered it was not there any more.
I rushed to the office of the secretary, to ask her what had happened to that particular picture.
“Nothing,” she said with a straight face.
“The cleaners took it down for cleaning off the dust it had gathered,” she said calmly.
I sighed with relief. My immediate alarm had been roused by the thought that someone who had been irked by the dull staging of the much-ballyhooed million-man march had removed the picture in anger.
I did not laugh at my own initial alarm that someone had been so angered by the ill-timed demonstration that they had decided to add their own anger to what some people thought was the people’s lack of enthusiasm for Zanu PF.
The scenario led me to speculate on Mugabe’s real popularity among the Zimbabwe masses. There had been no such display until reports of the lack of enthusiasm by the people over the million-man march.
Can anyone in the party dismiss the whole episode as being of no significant consequence to the real support enjoyed by Zanu PF by ordinary people in the country — or at least in the urban areas?
Eventually, it is up to the statisticians or other such qualified people to decide if that display in Harare meant anything at all — one way or the other.
A random study of the event would suggest that the enthusiasm of the people was not what it ought to have been — if you believed that Zanu PF itself was satisfied that it did enjoy as much support as it believed to have among urban people.
What is generally acknowledged, by even the strongest party supporters in cities and towns, is that the party has not made itself as attractive to the urban population as it ought to have — with an election so near.
The only consolation for the party could be that its situation has not deteriorated to the same extent as that of the other parties in other countries.
Some of them have had to use arms to quell the rioting against their governance.
In other countries, armed soldiers have been called in to stop the rioting citizens from arming themselves into vigilantes of some sort.
What must calm Zanu PF is the assumed popularity of their president — Mugabe. If that assumption turns out to be false, heaven help Zanu PF and Zimbabwe.