THE mood was electric, everyone in attendance was ecstatic. Understandably so, given that this was the first Independence Day celebration without long time ruler, Robert Mugabe at the helm, who was accused of running down the country and being a despot.
By Tatenda Chitagu
Mugabe was ousted after a coup in November last year and the soldiers had every reason to celebrate their exploits, which were “smart enough” not to attract the wrath of the Sadc, the African Union (AU) and the international community, which endorsed their intervention.
So with Independence Day celebrations, the army was suppose to be the belle of the ball, but some found the going tough and collapsed spectacularly.
Zimbabwe’s security forces seemed to still retain their pride in the face of fainting colleagues and collapsing fellow security forces while on parade during Wednesday’s Independence Day drills.
Amid their finest moments, in front of their Commander-in-Chief, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the fainting and falling of a soldier in Harare at the National Sports Stadium stained their ecstasy.
The soldier, from the elite Presidential Guard, was caught on camera lying motionless, while his colleagues ignored him and kept frozen at attention, as if nothing had happened.
According to NewsDay Chief Photographer, Aaron Ufumeli, who took the shot, the soldier woke up on his own moments later after he regained consciousness and everything proceeded, as if nothing had happened.
Bulawayo Provincial Affairs minister Angeline Masuku also collapsed while reading out Mnangagwa’s Independence Day speech at White City Stadium, she could be forgiven for her old age.
Masuku, who is advanced in age, was reportedly ordered to take a rest by her doctor, but she insisted on officiating, according to provincial administrator, Khonzani Ncube.
Not for soldiers, who form the last line of defence for any nation!
And it did not end there – in Masvingo a female cop collapsed while a female soldier fainted while standing at attention during the Independence Day commemorations drills at Mucheke Stadium, spotlighting the sad plight of underpaid civil servants.
The embarrassing incident, coming hard on the heels of a nurses’ strike and another in the offing by teachers, happened as guest of honour, Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Josaya Hungwe, was delivering the presidential speech.
It could not be established if the two – who succumbed to the heat while standing at attention – were ill, hungry; pregnant or were generally unfit. First to give in was the cop, who collapsed, but was shielded by other police officers and quickly whisked away, avoiding the journalists’s cameras.
About 30 minutes later, a female soldier fainted and was about to fall, but was saved by others, who were standing at attention besides her.
She was then taken away and a replacement came to stand in for her.
Other members of the uniformed forces from the prison services were seen fidgeting as Hungwe gave a 30-minute speech in Shona, with some being replaced as they could not cope. In the speech, which was drowned by the noise from the audience, largely kids, Hungwe hailed the uniformed forces, particularly the soldiers, for staging the coup that ushered in Mnangagwa to the biggest office of the country.
He said this year’s commemorations were important, as the country had a new leader in Mnangagwa, singling his nickname the Crocodile/Ngwena, who came after Mugabe, who had “muddied the Zimbabwean flag”.
It could not be established what befalls the securocrats after the fall.
Zimbabwe National Army spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Alphios Makotore professed ignorance over the issues.
“I never saw that in Harare. Did a soldier fall on parade? I missed that. I was also not in Masvingo, so I did not see that. I never heard anything about it,” he said when called for comment.
But in Facebook comments on the picture, Zimbabweans said the incidents could have been attributed to the heat, as well as uniforms they wear, with some sympathising with the soldier, calling him “a fallen hero”, while others prayed he will not be fired.
“Shame, I feel sorry for him. (I) hope he doesn’t get fired. It’s too hot even the President himself can fall if he wears such hot uniforms”; “Ah shame, I hope someone eventually attended to him,” were some of the comments posted.
Others found humour in the fall.
“It’s part of the new drills in new dispensation. Time we change the routine and add colour to parade,” one Facebook user commented, while another said: “That soldier is undisciplined. A soldier should be brave and endure.”
Another scoffed: “That heat! Why did it affect someone from the front and not the back row?”