THE majority of youths who attended First Lady Grace Mugabe’s meeting with college students at her Mazowe Children’s Home on Monday were Border Gezi youths reportedly bussed to the event to make up the numbers after genuine college students boycotted the event, NewsDay has learnt.
The meeting was meant to drum up Grace’s support base ahead of her endorsement to lead the Zanu PF Women’s League at the party’s congress in two weeks’ time.
The youths were bussed in hired Zupco and private buses as Zanu PF-aligned students’ body Zimbabwe Congress of Students Union (Zicosu) joined the fray to endorse Grace’s political ascendancy, while at the same time denouncing her perceived enemies ahead of the party’s elective congress to be held in a fortnight.
A Zicosu insider yesterday confirmed that most of the youths who attended the Mazowe meeting were not genuine college students.
“Most of the bussed youths were a rented crowd masquerading as students. The buses from real tertiary colleges like NUST (National University of Science and Technology) in Bulawayo came half full as students were not happy about the development which was foisted on them,” the source said.
Another source said some lecturers linked to Zanu PF had coerced their students to attend the Mazowe gathering after they realised that some students were not eager to attend the rally.
“At the University of Zimbabwe, political science head of department Dr Charity Manyeruke did the strategic planning and asked her students to attend and even supplied one of her vehicles to ferry them to Mazowe,” the source said.
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As if to confirm Manyeruke’s part in the planning of the event, Grace publicly thanked her for organising the students.
It has also emerged that a significant portion of the “students” actually came from the National Youth Service commonly known as “Border Gezi” youths.
Meanwhile, other Zicosu executive members yesterday distanced themselves from the Mazowe gathering.
In a statement, the students’ body said: “The Zicosu national executive is blasting and condemning the frivolous and reckless misguided gesture demonstrated by a small fraction of the student leaders that have misguided and misled the students to believe that there is a reasonable cause for the poverty-stricken and economically ravaged youths to stoop so low and participate in factionalism.
“How can the students decide to be associated with an unAfrican avalanche demonstrated within the political landscape of the nation in the last quarter of 2014, in which the Vice-President of the Republic was severely reduced through utterances that are mere allegations?”
Students at the rally denounced Vice-President Joice Mujuru, Youth and Indigenisation minister Francis Nhema and Tertiary Education minister Olivia Muchena.
Zicosu president Leopold Chakanyuka could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Many organisations aligned to Zanu PF have been falling over each other since August in endorsing Grace’s elevation to lead the Women’s League.
These include the party’s Youth League, Women’s League, war veterans, war collaborators, chiefs and the clergy.