Noisy youths drown Mugabe speech
By Thelma Chikwanha
MUTARE – President Robert Mugabe who celebrated his 88th birthday in the diamond mining town of Mutare under the theme “wealth to the youth” had his voice drowned by the youth who chatted animatedly throughout his hour plus long speech.
This was a major blow to the ego of a man who has been President since 1987 and before that prime minister since the country attained independence from colonial rule in 1980. Mugabe, who is used to commanding even the attention of great leaders in the world because of his oratory prowess, was humbled on Saturday by youths who talked loudly while he made his speech.
They had shown disdain for him well before his speech when they snubbed Zanu PF youth leader Absalom Sikhosana’s calls to chant Mugabe’s totem. During the speech, in which Mugabe made clear his intention to stay put, the octogenarian who spoke mainly on youth empowerment ate humble pie when some youths left during his speech.
Even the pleas by the party’s youth secretary for administration for them to keep quiet fell on deaf ears. Hungry schoolchildren who had waited over six hours for Mugabe to speak walked out on the man. Those who did not leave chose to go about their business while Mugabe spoke of the challenges faced by young people in Zimbabwe.
Not even the talk of youth development programmes like the $30 million revolving fund which Mugabe said will be given to youths without collateral excited the young men and women who thronged Sakubva stadium to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 21st February Movement.
Instead, the hungry youths who made the majority of the crowd did not go into frenzy with applause, maybe because they had spent the whole afternoon without any food or drink, Sikhosana tried to explain after the embarrassment.
Instead, most people in the crowd were making frantic efforts to capture the attention of bouncers and models carrying a few bottles of water in their hands. Others were going about their business oblivious of the speech which addressed major issues that affect the youth such as high unemployment and HIV and Aids.
Mugabe told uninterested youth how government was implementing various programmes and how the establishment, which has failed to provide employment opportunities for them, was reviewing vocational skills training programmes.
Unemployment in Zimbabwe is well over 90 percent yet the country is known for producing top notch professionals who are absorbed by other countries in the region and overseas. Mugabe’s speech came at a time when the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) are calling on governments to address unemployment challenges in the world.
But with no real economic and political dividend on the ground in Zimbabwe, there was no applause for Mugabe even when he said the $30 million revolving fund would be given to the youths to start businesses, without collateral. Only people seated within his sight managed to clap hands, even the women who have a knack for shaking their posteriors held their peace.
Under normal circumstances, Mugabe’s speech would have given hope to the youths of Zimbabwe who have endured hardships as the country goes through socio- political and economic transition.
“Youth should play a part in socio-economic and political development through the indigenisation programme…Our vision is that the youth businesses will expand and grow and contribute to the economy,” Mugabe said. But some youths in the city complained saying that their businesses had been compromised by the birthday celebrations.
“Can you imagine sister; I had to close my flea market stall for two days because of this occasion. I have lost a lot of business because of this,” the young man who preferred anonymity for fear of victimisation said. The young man who sells handmade shoes at Sakubva flea market said he realised at least $300 dollars a day from the two market stalls he runs with his wife.
He also told the Daily News that he was a qualified boiler maker but could not secure employment in the country and that seeking greener pastures abroad was not an option for him. “I am the bread winner in my family, my father is late and I have a mentally ill mother, I can’t pack my bags and leave with my wife and children as there will be no one to take care of my mother,” he said.
Freddie who also runs a flea market stall at Sakubva said that he had attended the birthday celebrations because he was afraid of victimisation. “I had no choice but to come because people who choose to boycott Zanu PF functions always get punished and in my case I do not want to lose my market stall because that is my only source of income,” Freddie, who trained as a teacher, said.
The manner in which Mugabe was received by the youths pours cold water on the claims that they were being used as mere pawns in the political game. Their failure to respond to the otherwise brilliant speech, left the organisers of the event which gobbled at least $1 million dollars at a time when most basic social services are on the brink of collapse, dumb founded.
Scores of young men and women where left stranded well after the “party chefs” had flown back to their respective homes in the capital city. Daily News