Mines and Mining Development minister Obert Mpofu’s weekend birthday and graduation party in Nyamandlovu attracted over 10 000 guests.
Zanu PF stalwart and Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa who stood in for party chairman Simon Khaya Moyo, could not hide his admiration for Mpofu’s crowd-pulling charm.
“I remember I would listen to him (Mpofu) telling the President (Robert Mugabe) that he was popular and I would say this is just propaganda since Mpofu is a trained journalist,” said Mnangagwa before he introduced the guest of honour, Vice-President John Landa Nkomo
Later, Youth and Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere added: “In Harare, we call him Dragline because of his ability to push things. Now I see why he is a big man because of all this support that he has.
“None of you have been forcibly brought here by the army. This is amazing and I am glad to say so, you can only come like this to a person that you love,” Kasukuwere said. Politicians at the party said no politicians from the region had attracted such a huge crowd in recent years.
“It is clear whether you belong to Zanu PF or not that Obert is the next great leader from Matabeleland. Today’s function is testimony to that,” said a senior Zanu PF official who declined to be named.
In a move viewed by many as a possible prelude to Mpofu’s elevation onto the Zanu PF succession ladder, Nkomo said: “Today, Mpofu you are an elderly man. You said you are what you are because of people who guided you. Today you join that club. An elder who works with others to shape the country’s destiny,” said Nkomo.
“Obert tried to overspeed, but he was brought to order and he listened. He did not slow down but moderated his speed; how he did it should be a lesson to the young generation.”
Organisers of the party said they had initially secured 10 000 chairs but by 11am on Saturday all the chairs had been taken up.
By 1pm organisers were seen trying to fit in tables to accommodate guests who had just arrived while some tents had to be opened on the sides to allow the crowds to follow the proceedings.
The celebrations were attended by the Who is Who of Matabeleland politics – among them: Retired Colonel Tshinga Dube, Matabeleland South, North and Bulawayo Governors Angeline Masuku, Sithokozile Mathuthu and Cain Mathema, Zanu PF central committee members Khumbulani Mlilo, Abigail Damasane, Fati Mpofu, Bubi Umguza Senator Lot Mbambo, Deputy President of the Senate Lot Niason Kutshwekhaya Ndlovu .
Matabeleland South provincial party chairman Andrew Langa, Bulawayo provincial youth chairman Butholezwe and a number of Zanu PF members also attended the party.
Deputy Secretary for Cabinet, Colonel Christian Katsande, business people and service chiefs also attended the bash.
Khaya Moyo, who according to the official programme, was supposed to introduce the guest of honour was conspicuous by his absence. Mpofu and Moyo are reportedly fighting for control of the region’s politics.
Moyo reportedly told the organisers at the eleventh hour he could not attend the party because of other commitments which were not made public.
The former ambassador could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Two weeks ago, Moyo told NewsDay he was on leave and would not be talking to the press till February.