Thupeyo Muleya in Gwanda
TEN months ago, he left Phelandaba Stadium unconscious, a victim of poisoning as the G40 cabal sought to stem the popular tide that saw him receive thunderous receptions at rally-after-rally, adulation that dwarfed what met then incumbent president Mr Robert Mugabe who grew increasingly paranoid whenever the crowd lapped up his deputy’s trademark, long-drawn party slogans that ended with the prophetic punch line, “Pasi nemhanduuuu! (Down with the enemy!)”
Soon the enemy within ran scared and sought to cut Cde Mnangagwa’s life short via poisoning.
The day was August 12, 2017 when soon after warming up the crowd with his trademark slogan, Cde Mnangagwa — then Vice President — began feeling dizzy and vomiting before being airlifted to Gweru en-route to South Africa for life-saving treatment.
Yesterday, he made a triumphal return to Phelandaba Stadium, scene of the crime. And this time there was no one to begrudge him Jah Prayzah’s song “Mudhara vachauya” which Mr Mugabe had appropriated.
This time President Mnangagwa arrived at Phelandaba Stadium to sounds of the anthemic ‘Kutonga kwaro’, again by Jah Prayzah, a song that has became synonymous with his ascension to the highest office in the land against seemingly insurmountable odds.
And Matabeleland South responded in droves so much that Zanu-PF deputy national political commissar Cde Omega Hungwe had to bar school children from attending the rally, telling them to go back to class as to leave room for adult supporters.
People from all the seven districts started trooping into the stadium as early as 7 am with those who failed to gain entry into the stadium perching on trees and the stadium’s perimeter wall to follow proceedings.
Streets turned green and yellow as ruling party supporters swamped the Matabeleland South provincial capital.
In his address, President Mnangagwa said the bumper crowd was testimony that Matabeleland South was a ruling party stronghold and victory was certain come July 30.
“Now that we are in the election period, let us all ensure that we maintain a peaceful environment as we seek to make this year’s election clean, peaceful, free and fair,” said President Mnangagwa.
“We have invited a total of 46 countries to come and observe our elections and we need to show maturity and tolerance as Zimbabweans. For us to develop we must have an environment of peace and we must be known for unity and love.
“I am pleased with the crowd here and the fact that you came out of your love for the party. The provincial party chairman Cde Choeni (Rabelani) has assured me of another clean sweep in all the 13 constituencies.
Zanu-PF won all 13 constituencies in Matabeleland South in the 2013 harmonised elections.
“Your presence here bears testimony that Matabeleland South is a Zanu PF stronghold. Let’s go out in our in numbers on election day to maintain our dominance.”
He said Zanu-PF is a mass party and told the supporters not to worry about small parties.
“If those from the small parties come to you saying we are thirsty, give them water, if they say they are hungry give them the food they require. All that we want is to achieve a thunderous peaceful victory and this can only be achieved by us as Zanu-PF,” said the President.
He had a word of advice for school children.
“School children let us redirect our efforts on education and desist from criminal activities. Dzidzai nemazvo kuti mugove neramangwana rakanaka (work very hard in your education for you to have a better future).
“Here in Matabeleland South we have the Gwanda State University which should produce human resources who will fit into the development scope of the province and national economic aspirations,” said President Mnangagwa.
Matabeleland South Zanu-PF chairman Cde Choeni assured the President of victory.
“The party is strong and we have assembled strong campaign teams which are already on the ground from cell to provincial level,” he said.