BLAZE of Glory is the title of a 1991 hit song by American rocker John Bon Jovi which aptly describes the ruling party Zanu PF’s jamboree, otherwise dubbed the sixth elective congress, currently underway in Harare.
The vast acres of open space which lie adjacent to the Rainbow Towers Hotel have been transformed into a kaleidoscope of white, green yellow and many other colours in an ostentatious display of wealth which is a far cry from the plight of ordinary Zimbabweans feeling the pinch of an economy that has been crumbling for well over a decade.
Ironically, the area was the site of last year’s ill-fated cross-over rally organised by Morgan Tsvangirai’s opposition MDC-T on the eve of general elections the party believed would catapult him into State House the following day — only to suffer a crushing defeat.
Now the dust of that MDC-T era has given way to the eye-catching structures and newly-constructed and tarred roads coined “Dr Grace Mugabe Way” and “Robert Mugabe Square” built illegally without council approval — underlying Zanu PF’s contempt for the rule of law and seizure mentality.
True to form, parastatals like Air Zimbabwe which are not only struggling but also constitute a perennial drain on the fiscus, have played a huge part in ensuring the congress is a success — whatever Zanu PF measures it by.
What are state enterprises doing sponsoring a party function when most of them are corrupt, mismanaged, run down and surviving on taxpayers’ funds, one might ask? Well, this is time for them to play their part in service of Zanu PF’s well-oiled patronage system.
The Harare City Council was playing its part too, rolling out its refuse trucks to clean up after Zanu PF — a service some of the city’s suburbs sorely miss judging by the prevalence of uncollected garbage in the city’s suburbs.
Zanu PF chose the white for the structures erected to house delegates — about 12 000 according to the party — maybe to reflect the searing heat, but that was undone by the failure to install adequate air conditioners to protect those inside.
Word has it that the South African company, Elite Comfort Hire, contracted for the job only installed 105 air conditioners, which turned out to be woefully inadequate after the “revolutionary party” increased the number and size of the structures to accommodate more people.
And so, in the true fashion of greenhouses, the main structure trapped the heat while baking the delegates indiscriminate of position and stature within the party.
But that could not prevent Mugabe from taking a cue from Grace’s invectives, accusing much-maligned Vice-President Joice Mujuru and other senior party and government officials aligned to her faction of plotting his ouster and assassination.
Speaking in a controlled voice, Mugabe, seen by some as benevolent a dictator yet by others as a brutish tyrant, began by apologising to the delegates because “we have not behaved in a manner which showed we were united”.
“Some of us failed us, some of us failed you. As we thought we were working together they were doing their own thing parallel to the party planning their own future, planning how they could change the leadership of the party. Planning about kicking the president out of power,” he said.
It was this last statement which deconstructed all appearance of being selfless, humane and caring — an image that Mugabe and his publicists had sought to cultivate by, among other things, bringing in schoolchildren to recite poems of hero-worship before an appreciative First Family which had also taken the trouble of donating food to ensure delegates did not starve.
Simon Khaya Moyo, who survived last minute attempts to oust him, appeared to have found his voice once again and used his trademark booming voice in the manner of a prefect, admonishing restive delegates who were inconveniently raising loud murmurs, obviously bored by the monotony of speakers droning with their “messages of solidarity” to the First Family as tummies began to rumble due to a delayed lunch.
While Moyo got his redemption, other Mujuru allies who dared attend the event looked pitifully subdued in contrast to the vitality and triumphalism of pro-Mugabe officials and other delegates believed to be aligned to Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. There was ululating and singing all round from the victors and mourning from losers.
Grace was beaming and war-veteran-turned-parliamentarian, Joseph Chinotimba, was in full voice and stride as he paced up and down. And so today the festival continues and by tomorrow, Mugabe will use his increased powers thanks to amendments to the party’s constitution — widely seen as illegal — to appoint new vice-presidents and a national chairperson while dumping Mujuru, Mutasa and others who dared to broach the succession taboo.
But before then, tonight many chefs will retire to the opulence of upmarket mansions and hotels while the ordinary folk who have travelled from far and wide will sleep on the hard concrete floor of the party headquarters as some have done in the past few days.