PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has admitted that he has lost grip of urban centres, accusing people in towns of easily being swayed by food handouts.
Report by Nqobile Bhebhe
Speaking at a memorial service for the late Vice-President John Nkomo on Sunday, Mugabe singled out Bulawayo and Harare residents, accusing them of “turning their backs” on Nkomo and Zanu PF.
“(Bulawayo governor Cain) Mathema, people in Bulawayo are now saying to John Nkomo and us, down with you. We (Zanu PF) brought independence, we suffered in the struggle,” he told about 1 000 people who attended the service. “I do not know if people were thinking of their food when they decided to vote against us. They voted against John Landa Nkomo. They have forgotten that we brought them to Canaan.”
Mugabe and his Zanu PF party have performed badly in urban centres, with the President suffering a backlash for the food shortages and an economic downturn that peaked in 2008.
The veteran ruler, continuously evoking the memories of Nkomo, said he hoped the next elections would bring good tidings for his party, which has continuously performed dismally in Bulawayo in past elections.
“You begin to think of food and turn your back against John Nkomo and us,” he bemoaned. “People here in Bulawayo have dumped us and Harare it is the same. The urban people are tricked with food.”
Mugabe claimed that in the 2008 election, urban people had been “tricked with food”, advising that they be vigilant in the next poll.
“You must demonstrate that you are a true follower of John (Nkomo) when you vote soon, vote correctly,” he said.
Mugabe described his late deputy as a unifier, a man of peace and someone who was people-oriented. Nkomo died in January from cancer.
The country is due to hold elections this year and Mugabe said he would make the dates for the polls known this week.
Ironically, as he bemoaned that voters were being easily swayed by food handouts, Mugabe revealed that 150 000 tonnes of maize from Zambia would be delivered soon.
“We have this year been afflicted by hunger which should not become famine, the government is doing all it can to import grain,” he said.
Mugabe, however, said the country did not have the money to pay for the food imports and luckily Zambian President Michael Sata was not concerned with payments.
“Three days ago, I was speaking with Sata, he is willing to sell us grain, and
150 000 tonnes of maize has been agreed on,” he said. “I wanted to discuss the price of the maize, but he (Sata) said, ‘no, no, no’, the price would be discussed afterwards, people should first have something in their stomachs.”