How much did the whole shindig cost? That surely was what the general public were asking last Saturday following the lengthy exchange of vows between Simba Chikore (who some say is over 40) and Bona Mugabe (24).
It came immediately following the President Robert Mugabe’s visit to Singapore for eye treatment. The ceremony can’t have come cheap. Yes, invitees competed to see who could present the most extravagant gift, but that won’t have covered much of what it cost to host the event.
President Mugabe said as much after the ceremony.
“Financially, we know they have spent quite a lot on their wedding,” he said, “but we have put aside a bit of money so we’re giving them US$100 000 too for that.”
This was greeted with wild applause, the Sunday Mail said. Other prominent donors were President Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, now a recognised friend and official donor in Harare, and President Michael Sata of Zambia and his wife.
Meanwhile closer to home, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri gave the newly-weds US$10 000 on behalf of the police. Muckraker was the first to disclose news of the anticipated wedding in this column.
While some may celebrate what is cheekily being termed “the royal wedding”, many found it tasteless to spend such amounts when the nation is in dire straits, largely caused by those presiding over events on Saturday.
Just a couple of weeks earlier, the nation had celebrated the president’s 90th birthday. Businessmen and women were prevailed upon to contribute to the North Korean-style events. But the same people can’t even donate to flood victims around the country!
Herald columnists predictably used the occasion of the president’s birthday to heap praise on their leader. More pertinently they demonstrate what happens when newspapers become mouthpieces of the ruling party and its leaders.
There was however a great picture headed President Mugabe and his family cut his birthday cake showing the Mugabe clan pushing and shoving for a slice of cake.
Simba Chikore obviously needed no instruction at the tea table as he stretched across for his slice. And who was the person in dark glasses looking on? A staple feature of the regime!
On a more serious note, we were lectured yet again on how President Mugabe was not only the fountain of all wisdom, but also the architect of national reconciliation.
While Nelson Mandela was mentioned in passing, Muckraker can cite an even earlier example of reconciliation that is never mentioned by our commentators. Jomo Kenyatta held out the hand of friendship to Kenya’s white settlers in 1963 after a bitter insurrection.
Of course, some apologists are more hagiographical than others. How about this for a case of bootlicking from the Zanu PF department of indigenisation and empowerment?
“President Mugabe has continued carrying the cross for Zimbabweans by implementing path-breaking empowerment programmes like the land reform and indigenisation. No leader has been more demonised by the West than President Mugabe but he has remained resolute …”
Given the crude brutality of the Rhodesian settlers, a lot of people expected retribution in 1980, the apologist claimed. But instead, Mugabe proved all and sundry wrong by preaching a policy of reconciliation, of turning swords into ploughshares. White army commanders were left in their positions and people like Ian Smith were left on their farms.
The writer is either ignorant or dishonest or both. We see this rubbish all the time. Peter Walls was forced out of the country and not allowed back for plotting with the British. Bishop Abel Muzorewa was arrested on the basis of another dubious plot when entering the country after a trip to South Africa. And more seriously of all, Dumiso Dabengwa and Lookout Masuku were incarcerated for four years for allegedly plotting against Mugabe and held despite court rulings and orders to liberate them.
As for Ian Smith, he lost most of his farm (Gwenora) in Shurugwi after 2000. But that didn’t stop Mugabe dining out on how Smith was allowed to stay on it.
So much for reconciliation!
No suggestion here that people have democratic rights and are free to oppose the government.
This week the Herald published a picture of Mrs Grace Mugabe escorting the former first lady of Ghana around the “first-class philanthropic project” she has set up at Mazoe. The project was “incomparable” and of “world-class standard”, the former Ghanaian first lady claimed.
No mention, of course, of the damage to Zimbabwe’s economy of land seizures — the latest being Interfresh land — in Mazoe by Mrs Mugabe and its negative impact on investment. Reports suggest the seizure of the company’s property effectively renders Interfresh unviable, compromising its ability to pay back the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa.
The seizure of Interfresh’s holdings has blocked external lines of credit as well, analysts point out.
But there is a wider point here. Here is the wife of the president using her authority to dispossess earlier residents — an elderly couple — and oblige a key player on the market, Interfresh, to give up a valuable investment. How will this look to investors?
Finally, the Sunday Mail’s heading to its grovelling piece on President Mugabe was appropriate: President Mugabe one of a kind. Yes indeed, he is!