Almost all the retail shops in downtown Harare now display portraits of President Robert Mugabe after shop owners were allegedly forced into doing so by Zanu PF activists.
But senior Zanu PF officials have warned those engaged in such activities, threatening businesses to buy and display the President’s portrait, to stop doing so. NewsDay has established that Zanu PF members from Harare province were forcing retailers to buy President Mugabe’s portraits for $60.
They move around brandishing a letter signed by Harare province secretary for education, Last Mbizvo which reads in part: “You are once more urged to show respect for the nation and its leadership through openly displaying the portrait of the Head of State and Government and Commander In Chief of The Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Cde RG Mugabe.
“The portraits are hereby delivered to you on your doorstep at $60 per portrait. Your usual cooperation is appreciated.”
The letter bears the Zanu PF party logo, stamp and Mbizvo’s signature. Mbizvo confirmed the authenticity of the letter to NewsDay when it was dispatched three months ago saying the “project” was meant to promote respect for President Mugabe.
“We are urging the business community to display (the portrait) as a sign of respect for the President,” said Mbizvo.
Zanu PF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo last week warned those engaged in such activities saying they did not have authority from the party to do so.
“We don’t want anybody who says they are raising money without consulting the party. People who are doing that are not following party policy and do not have authority to do what they are doing,” he said.
However, shops around the Gulf Complex stretching to those near Harare Central Police Station all display the President’s portrait, apparently out of fear. Retailers who spoke to NewsDay said they had no option but to buy the portraits.
“We bought the portrait to show them we respect President Mugabe. We are trying to avoid confrontation,” said a businesswoman who sells hair products.
Other retailers described the move as extortion.