PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has not hidden his disdain for everything associated with Zimbabwe’s erstwhile colonial master Britain, especially since the turn of the century when his administration embarked on the controversial land redistribution exercise.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Accusations from his opponents and Western countries of human rights abuses have not bode well with the former guerilla leader now in his 37th year as ruler of Zimbabwe.
Mugabe hates Britain and all that defines it. Or does he?
But a closer look at Mugabe’s dressing and the way he presides over national ceremonies reveals a deep love for not only British culture and its power trinkets, but all traditional colonial pageantry.
Once again this week Mugabe was on hand to officially open the 5th Session of the 8th Parliament of Zimbabwe, the last before another general election that the Zanu PF leader will contest at the ripe old age of 94.
Once the darling of Zimbabweans, Mugabe has turned into a hated dictator as the trappings of power got the better of the former freedom fighter, security around him has become tighter and as usual every inch of Harare was crawling with security details.
Journalists covering the event are routinely frisked, the Press Gallery is packed mainly with Central Intelligence Operatives rolling menacing eyes on every movement.
Finally after the long wait about mid-morning the Emperor of Harare arrives unmolested by poverty-weary citizens closed off from the ceremony because some roads have been barricaded and the heavy security scares them away.
Chauffeur-driven in a vintage century old British-made gleaming Rolls-Royce once used by Lord Soames, the last governor of Rhodesia, and flanked by his wife Grace, Mugabe rolled into Parliament after inspecting a quarter guard of honour mounted by 200 soldiers from the crack Presidential guard, who had stood in the sweltering early summer heat for hours on end.
Queen Elizabeth would be green with envy at the way the event was choreographed in what appears to be an apparent endorsement of Mugabe’s sworn enemy’s cultural edifice. A visitor could be forgiven to think they had arrived at 10 Downing Street, seat of British power.
Mugabe does not miss an opportunity to denigrate Britain and its Western allies particularly the United States for meddling in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe and sponsoring regime change merchants in the form of civil society groups and opposition parties.
His long and colourful procession from State House punctuated by music and a wailing motorcade, before the military parade was a show of the best the British have to offer. It was like a celebration of British culture with little to show that the event is Southern Africa in a small country once ruled by the Munhumutapa.
Police on horseback, donning a hundred-year-old Rhodesian style uniform complete with pith
helmets and a full complement of Zimbabwe’s top military brass was on hand to receive the tired looking President who resplendent in his Presidential apparel that included medals and the ceremonial sash.
Mugabe limped on, oblivious to a motley group of apostolic sect members clad in white apparel who piously sang: “Gabriel mutungamiriri (Gabriel our leader)” beyond a steel barricade in adjacent Africa Unity Square that still resembles the British Union Jack.
The Mbare Chimurenga choir also gyrated singing Mugabe’s praises and declaring the Zanu PF leader ruler of the land “forever”.
As the national anthem was sung Mugabe stood at attention, four MiG jets flew past, while a 21 gun salute sounded nearby after which Mugabe took to inspecting the smartly dressed soldiers.
Behind Mugabe, the hierarchy of the judiciary also appeared, led by Chief Justice Luke Malaba, clad in the colonial red gowns and off-white toupees (wigs) worn by barristers in commonwealth countries made their way onto the tarmac briefly before shuffling into the legislative chambers.
Mugabe angrily pulled out of the Commonwealth of former British colonies over accusations he had stolen the 2002 presidential election and used violence to retain power.
Traditional leaders accused of being part of Mugabe’s coercive apparatus in his nefarious power retention schemes over the years, again in colonial apparel, followed suit.
Critics argue that Mugabe, who presides over almost all State ceremonies including burial of national heroes among them his first wife Sally, cannot stand to sit at home and allow someone to take over “because he loves these events and would hate to watch anyone take charge”.