Tens of thousands of people have marched through the streets of Zimbabwe’s capital in support of President Mugabe.
The so-called ‘million man march’ was organised by the Zanu-PF youth league following the opposition’s calls for the long-time leader to step down.
At the march the youth league reaffirmed President Mugabe’s candidacy for the 2018 elections.
A defiant President Mugabe told his supporters he is not going anywhere despite the calls for him to step down.
On the morning of Africa Day, busloads of Zanu-PF supporters arrived in Harare to march for a president under pressure.
The youth league organisers had targeted a million marchers in support of the man whose leadership they say is a success both in Zimbabwe and on the continent. But in the rural areas where the majority are hungry because of drought, support for the President Mugabe remains high.
This marcher explains: “I can’t speak for others, but we have benefited a lot from his leadership. We have been given land and have an opportunity under indigenisation to work for ourselves and farm”, says A Zanu-PF supporter.
The youth have called for one centre of power within the party, a veiled reference to the fractious succession politics. But they are also discontent, urging their leaders to end the corruption and self-enrichment. None of that anger appeared to be directed at President Mugabe.
Meanwhile, the opposition says the march massages the ego of a man who has impoverished his nation. It plans to hold a second march over the weekend calling for president to resign. President Mugabe claims it’s because they are afraid of his popularity.
“I belong to my people and my people say stay here. I don’t belong to Britain, or America. I am not a Yankee, so they say I must go,” says Mugabe.
Last month the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) held what was the largest protest in recent history, Zanu-PF surpassed that number. The youth are saying they want to send a message that president Mugabe is not going anyway anytime soon.
“President Mugabe may have escaped shouldering the blame for the problems, but the reality is no amount of toying and toying and no amount of mobilisation will arrest the economic decline of Zimbabwe and alleviate the poverty that people are wallowing in,” says political analyst Alexander Rusero.
Zanu-PF says the meeting has shown it is still able to mobilise record numbers as President Mugabe eyes another landslide win in 2018, when he turns 94.