Tokwe Mukosi – President Robert Mugabe’s ‘Dry’ Speech

It was a case of waiting very long for very little to the thousands of villagers who travelled long distances from all the corners of Masvingo for the official commissioning of Tokwe Mukosi dam by President Robert Mugabe last week.

The villagers had high expectations as they especially wanted to know how they were going to benefit from the country’s largest water reservoir, Tokwe Mukosi dam, which will contain 1,8 million cubic metres of water when full. But they returned to their homes bitterly disappointed.

Bussed to the venue from as early as 8am, they streamed to the dam site and flooded the area behind the dam wall where the official opening was going to be held.

But Mugabe only turned up at around 3:30pm and gave a lifeless speech lasting less than an hour. Zimbabweans are used to up to three-hour long speeches from their president, but lately, the 93-year-old leader has failed to live up to expectation.

Mugabe sauntered onto the red carpet surrounded by teams of journalists and his security details. Everyone wanted to be there in full view of the president – just in case.

And so the villagers from Masvingo had this rare chance to witness first-hand something that they had only read about in the newspapers or heard about from third parties – how Mugabe is no longer as strong as he used to be due to a combination of old age and ill-health.

Mugabe’s aide gave him the speech one page at a time, taking away the pages he would have read. Apparently this served to prevent him from repeating the same lines that he would have read as he did at Parliament last year when he read a speech he had read two weeks earlier without noticing it.

It appeared Mugabe’s speech at the dam site did not excite the villagers, who started walking away well before he was done.

Here in rural Masvingo, it was unheard of for anyone to stand up, let alone leave, before the president had left the venue. But last week the Masvingo villagers did just that – maybe it was because they could not hear his address due to the poor public address system.

“We did not know that things have come to this,” a man in his 40s said after the function. “The man is now old. It would have been better had I not come here.”

“I did not hear his address and he did not take much time. Yet I travelled all the way from Mwenezi and waited for the whole day. This is unfair. We had so many expectations, especially considering that this dam is in Masvingo province which has been hit by drought almost yearly for the past 10 years and we wanted to hear – in black and white – how we are going to benefit.

“He just touched on the issue and did not explicitly specify how villagers would benefit, but mentioned that sugar producer, Tongaat Hullet, and the city of Masvingo, would get water,” another villager said.

While Mugabe spoke about irrigation schemes and sugar outgrower’s schemes that would benefit villagers, it is the plight of the villagers in Masvingo and that of the 18 000 flood survivors displaced by flooding at the dam, that many expected him to speak out.

Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa knew what was at stake and while giving her welcome remarks, she pleaded with Mugabe that water from the dam should benefit the Chingwizi villagers who are now located in Nuanetsi Ranch in Mwenezi.

“The dam is complete, it’s time the people come back,” said Mahofa.

But the sly Mugabe said Mahofa should present the issue later in government.

“You can raise that issue later with government,” Mugabe said.

By that statement, Mugabe dashed the hopes of villagers who continue to endure miserable lives on the dry Nuanetsi Ranch. When flooding hit three years ago, Mugabe declared it a national disaster but he never visited them, creating an impression in the minds of the affected people that he did not care about their plight.

And such remarks left many of them, and others not affected by the dam, clearly disappointed. That could be the reason why they walked out before he had completed his speech.

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Source: Zimbabwe Standard

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