‘Mugabe tourist attraction’

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It was a battle of verbosity and effusiveness yesterday as several government departments and ministries led by Zanu PF and MDC officials sought to outdo each other with choreographed congratulatory birthday messages for President Robert Mugabe, who turned 88.

Tourism minister and Masvingo South Zanu PF MP Walter Mzembi went into overdrive in his praise of the veteran leader in a newspaper advertisement published yesterday.

“You are truly a pillar of tourism development in Zimbabwe, and many a times (sic) we are tempted to declare you a tourist attraction, a centre of tourism development,” read part of the message.

“You are a true gallant son of the soil, leader, fighter and liberator, a father and a friend always cherished by many, defied only by the haters of truth, peace and progress.”

Mzembi is one of the many senior Zanu PF officials who were last year quoted in leaked United States diplomatic cables expressing frustration over the veteran ruler’s reluctance to give way to fresh blood.

Small and Medium Enterprises minister Sithembiso Nyoni, who is also a Zanu PF politburo member, could not be outshone.

“We derive inspiration from His Excellency’s legacy as a pillar of our nationhood,” she said in another advert. “May the Almighty God continue to guide his wise leadership and bless him with many more.”

Nyoni was in the eye of a storm recently after Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai revealed in his memoirs that her Organisation of Rural Associations for Progress (Orap) was instrumental in the formation of the MDC in 1999.

Nyoni was forced to respond to the claims by blasting Zanu PF politburo member Jonathan Moyo, who had called for her head following the sensational revelations. Another Zanu PF politburo member, Stan Mudenge, the Ministere of Higher and Tertiary Education, could not be left out in the bootlicking stampede.

“May you continue to inspire us with your unprecedented achievements as an educator par excellence and indeed as a visionary leader,” he said.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police, which for years has been accused by opposition politicians and human rights groups of being partisan, also went to great lengths to praise Mugabe.

“Your principled leadership qualities are an envy not only to the nation of Zimbabwe, but to the region and beyond,” the police said.An advertisement placed on behalf of the Parliament of Zimbabwe read:

“You are an icon of the downtrodden masses and a staunch warrior in the fight against injustice and neocolonial domination in Zimbabwe and beyond.

“To today’s youth, your illustrious life is a template of unflinching values, selfless sacrifice and revolutionary fervour.”

Yesterday’s stampede surprisingly included Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube’s ministry.

Two weeks ago, the MDC leader described the former guerilla leader as a liability both to Zanu PF and the country and called on him to quit active politics.

“We wish him more years of visionary leadership,” the ministry said.

The ministries of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture led by David Coltart (MDC), Labour and Social Services (Paurina Mupariwa, MDC-T) and Health and Child Welfare (Henry Madzorera, MDC –T) also expressed their admiration for Mugabe in their adverts.