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Home | ZimCrisis#108 -- Crowd Jeers Mugabe at Opening of Parliament

Date: Fri, 21 Jul 2000 16:15:21 -0700
To: "Zimbabwe Crisis Mailing List":;
From: Zimbabwe Crisis
Subject: ZimCrisis#108 -- Crowd Jeers Mugabe at Opening of Parliament

Hi everyone,

The irony of the style in which Mugabe arrives at the opening of parliament is just too rich.


Friday 21 July 2000
By David Blair in Harare

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe was jeered and taunted by crowds of hostile demonstrators yesterday at the official opening of Zimbabwe's parliament yesterday.

For the first time, the opposition benches were filled with 57 MPs from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and at least 250 of their supporters gathered in Africa Unity Square, directly opposite the parliament building in Harare, singing "the government is rotten" and shouting "chinja" (change).

More than 200 of Mr Mugabe's shock troops from his Zanu-PF party massed beside them, clenching their fists and chanting "long live Mugabe". Hundreds of riot police armed with batons and tear gas surrounded the square, preparing to hold back the crowd.

A waving, singing frenzy had developed even before Mr Mugabe's arrival. Emboldened by their dominance of the capital, where they swept every seat in last month's election, the MDC activists wore T-shirts declaring "show Mugabe the red card".

Most had brought the red cards of a football referee, intending to wave them at the president during the most important ceremony of the official calendar. Holding an MDC banner, Elizabeth said: "Harare is ours. Mugabe has no support in his own capital any more. We are not worried."

Pointing at the Zanu-PF mob, she said: "They had to bring these people from the rural areas. Most of them were squatting on the white farms." In spotless green uniforms, 200 soldiers from the elite presidential guard paraded outside parliament while the sound of horses' hooves heralded the arrival of Mr Mugabe.

Escorted by 32 mounted policemen, dressed in the 1890 uniform of the British South Africa Police, complete with white pith helmets, the president came into view. A regal Mr Mugabe was riding in the gleaming Rolls Royce once used by Lord Soames, the last Governor of Rhodesia.

As he mounted the saluting dais and the national anthem was played, a chorus of jeering began. A sea of red cards appeared directly in front of Mr Mugabe and roars of "chinja" drowned the efforts of the military band. His supporters responded with cries of support, but were easily outnumbered by joyful MDC activists. Only a fly-past from four MiG jets silenced the raucous whistles and cries.

Looking inscrutable, Mr Mugabe retreated inside parliament and took his seat on the Speaker's chair, facing his newly-elected opponents for the first time. Chants of "chinja" were still audible from outside as he promised to help "the land hungry masses" by "accelerating the land resettlement programme".

The president's 30-minute speech, during which he rewarded Zanu-PF's fanatical supporters among the veterans of the war against white rule by proposing a new ministry to represent their interests, left opposition MPs cold. Eddie Cross, the MDC's secretary for economic affairs, said: "There wasn't a word about the restoration of the rule of law, not a word about getting the squatters off the farms and nothing about economic recovery. It was a pretty nasty speech."

Meanwhile, the newly confident MDC activists waved red cards and howled derision at every government minister seen leaving parliament in their official cars. One said: "Everything has changed. We are the ones who will be in charge soon. These guys are finished."

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