President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s official opening of the 9th Parliament of Zimbabwe yesterday turned into a public display of colonial regalia and trinkets in scenes that would fit well at Westminster Abbey, the seat of Britain’s legislature.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Like former President Robert Mugabe before him, Mnangagwa had huge sections of Parliament building’s environs crawling with security personnel, guns at the ready and nearby streets turned into virtual no-go-areas.
The area bordered by Nelson Mandela Avenue, part of Sam Nunjoma-3rd Street, Jason Moyo Avenue up to 4th Street was on lock-down, with barricades and unusually heavy security presence to make way for Mnangagwa’s British-style procession, turning the city into a traffic nightmare.
Chauffeur-driven in the century-old vintage, Mnangagwa, donning a colonial presidential grandmaster’s medal and green military sash, made his way from State House in a long procession that included some 29 police officers on horseback and some military outriders. The anomaly in this cast were the latest top of the range vehicles that moved silently alongside the clattering on the tarmac.
The securocrats, led by Commander Zimbabwe Defence Forces General Valerio Sibanda had first arrived in brand new spanking cars, showing off their military ranks where there were supposed to be number plates.
With a 21-gun salute booming from the Africa Unity Square nearby — which was designed to resemble the Union Jack — Mnangagwa stood at attention for the national anthem as four military Gennet Jets in diamond formation made a fly-past, followed by Airforce Hawks.
While Mugabe would arrive resplendent in a foreign-styled suit that would pass him for a British Peer with the then First Lady Grace in tow, Mnangagwa, a disciple of the former Zanu PF leader for half a century, and has indicated he does not want his wife involved in government and Zanu PF party business, rode alone.
His long and colourful procession from State House arrived amid blaring music and the wailing motorcade. Soon after his arrival, he inspected a guard of honour mounted by soldiers from the Presidential Guard 1 Battalion who had stood in the sweltering summer heat.
After inspecting the guard of honour, Mnangagwa made his way into the National Assembly chamber to make his address.
Behind Mnangagwa, lawmakers led by Vice-Presidents Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi, filed into the building before the hierarchy of the judiciary also appeared, led by Deputy Chief Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza, 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. Traditional leaders led by Chief’s Council president Fortune Charumbira in flapping red robes followed before senators joined the procession for the joint sitting of Parliament.
Amid heckling from opposition legislators who walked out as he set the annual legislative agenda, Mnangagwa seemed unfazed and went on to set targets to be met by MPs in this session.