But how wrong those people were. The Iranian President Ahmoud Ahmadinejad was in town to officially open the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF).
As early as 8am, low flying military helicopters circled over the city scouring the surroundings.
The 16km stretch from Joshua Mqabuko International Airport to the ZITF grounds was manned by policemen armed with AK 47 assault rifles, with four policemen assigned to every street corner. Giant posters showing a belligerent Mugabe with a clenched fist alongside those of an unsmiling Ahmedinejad were hung on streetlamps that lined the long road stretch from the airport to ZITF grounds.
In the city centre, all road intersections were manned by two traffic officers and two armed policemen.
In the vicinity of the trade fair, three tanks parked on the periphery of the exhibition centre aroused the curiosity of children who swarmed around them in awe as soldiers manning them barked instructions to motorists to park clear of the area.
The soldiers manning the camouflaged tanks, with gun turrets pointed menacingly at the trade fair, sat on top, with some training their binoculars.
Most people wondered what it is that makes leaders so terrified of their countrymen.
“The security here is frightening, everywhere you go you either meet a policeman, a soldier or someone suspiciously looking like an intelligence officer and the experience is frightening,” a newspaper vendor said. “What are our leaders afraid of?”
A handful of Muslims chanted outside the trade fair grounds as they awaited the arrival of Ahmedinejad and Mugabe.
When the kilometre-long convoy bringing the two leaders, accompanied by service chiefs, mayors from all the cities and towns of Zimbabwe and government ministers entered the city from the airport, everything came to a standstill.
“I have never seen such a long convoy in my life and this is a spectacle people in Bulawayo are not used to,” said a bemused vendor as hundreds of workers streamed out of their offices to watch the passing convoy.
The security details from the president’s office were sidelined as the Iranians took over the security at the ZITF and barked instructions while awaiting the arrival of the two leaders.
When Ahmedinejad arrived he did not disappoint the thousands of mainly Zanu PF supporters as he went on his usual tirade against the West.
“God gave us the sun and the moon, he also created love, passion and spiritual resources; unfortunately some of the oppressors do not understand these rules, they have bad behaviour and they let slavery be prevalent in this world,” the Iranian leader said. “Today they are trying to control world resources and they do not want to let other countries have peace and prosperity.”
He said some countries in the world including Zimbabwe and Iran have noticed the behaviour of these countries and have decided to stand firm against their arrogance.