Rent-a-crowd for Nkomo memorial

President Robert Mugabe evoked memories of veteran politician Joshua Nkomo in the capital last Friday amid signs that his ruling party was faltering ahead of next March's elections.
A few thousand people, among them war veterans and youth militia turned up to listen to Mugabe at the Zanu (PF

) headquarters after marching across the capital Harare denouncing economic saboteurs.
But they had to wait four hours for the president to arrive, since low turnout at a preceding rally in Harare led organisers to delay it for two hours while they sent buses around to ferry in supporters.
But the final crowd was a scant 4,000, in stark contrast to an event 27 years ago, when Mugabe addressed tens of thousands of supporters upon his return from the battle lines of the guerrilla war to become the first prime minister of the newly renamed former Rhodesia.
Mugabe told the crowd that Nkomo, affectionately remembered here as “Father Zimbabwe,” would “turn in his grave if the opposition won the elections.” He said voters should honour Nkomo’s role in the struggle for independence by trying to fulfill his wish for unity among the people. “Today we shall commemorate Nkomo’s death with dance and song (at Rudhaka Stadium in Marondera), and if people are going to go and vote for the MDC next year, the bones of the old man will turn in his grave,” he said in reference to a musical gala organized by Zanu (PF).

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