Bruce Ndlovu and Tinomuda Chakanyuka
WITH the world famous Matobo hills looking on, President Mugabe’s 93rd birthday was celebrated in inimitable style during a jamboree that befittingly epitomised the mixture of political grit, youthful verve and colour.
A wet and muddy Matobo came to a standstill with the who’s who in Zimbabwe’s political leadership being joined by youths from all around the country as they made the pilgrimage to the picturesque venue to pay homage to one of the greatest surviving African icons.
Only a dishonest critic would have called Saturday’s fête anything but spectacular as the excitement that was visible on the streets of Bulawayo on the days prior to Saturday’s gig finally broke into full-blooded elation and celebration in the shadow of Matobo’s hills.
This euphoric feeling was particularly visible on Matopos Road, with every vehicle that left Bulawayo seemingly carrying jubilant, singing cargo that lost none of its verve and excitement on arrival.
During the ceremony, this festive spirit was perhaps perfectly captured during one moment when, right before the President’s eagerly awaited speech, Vice Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko were asked, alongside their partners, to showcase their dancing skills by Zanu-PF national youth secretary Kudzai Chipanga.
While for many in the crowd seeing these two liberation war stalwarts and veteran politicians display a deftness of feet was enough to encourage a smile, Cde Chipanga added a further twist when he asked them to exchange spouses and battle it out. Oh my, what a spectacle it was.
The dance off started with Vice President Mphoko and Cde Auxilia Mnangagwa effortlessly gliding on stage to the delight of both dignitaries and the gathered crowd at large.
Next up were Vice President Mnangagwa and Cde Laurinda Mphoko, who gave a show stopping performance, exploding into a dance that turned the mood in the venue riotous.
Cde Mphoko’s nimble feet and movement on the dance floor left many in awe, and Sandra Ndebele who was part of the entertainment lineup at the bash might have learnt a move or two.
Even the birthday “boy” could not help but comment on the dancing exploits exhibited by his two lieutenants and their wives.
“Ndaona ma Vice Presidents and their wives move into action. Ndanga ndisati ndambovaona vachidai. Ndozvatinoita muZanu PF. Aiwa tinozvitenda,” President Mugabe remarked.
The duel had been a clever twist by Cde Chipanga who typified the mixture of business and fun at the bash, as only a few minutes after talking the serious politics and policy, he put on his revelry hat on and whipped the crowd into a frenzy.
“Cde Chipanga the dynamism that is in you and others must not be extinguished,” added President Mugabe as he recognised the zeal and determination Cde Chipanga and other youth leaders had exhibited when putting together the momentous event.
First Lady Dr Amai Grace Mugabe had earlier set the festivities tone when she led the crowd in singing a birthday song to President Mugabe.
Oh gosh, can she sing.
Her sweet voice, incarnate of her personality charmed many, soothed many souls and captivated emotions. She can scoop gold with little effort were she to enter the Star Brite contest.
The President’s speech, the highlight of many such gatherings, was another masterclass that highlighted why he is often hailed as one of the world’s oratory masters.
From the onset, he dived into the personal, reminiscing about late members of his family while highlighting how easy it was for one to mistake long life and unshakeable health as a burden rather than the blessing which it is.
“I miss them. I miss them so much and sometimes I ask myself why I have remained to stay this long?” he said as a great hush descended on the entire venue.
However, rather than being a mere sob story, the great African statesmen used his tale of loss as a springboard in which to highlight the virtues of staying true to one’s purpose and values.
“Each one of you has a mission to fulfill in this world, you have a mandate. This mandate might run shorter times others run a longer time. You must discover your own mandate. I am one amongst many and one who has been made by the many their leader. I thank the Lord and I say I accept my mission on this earth,” he said to thunderous applause.
No birthday is complete without cake and this year’s cake cutting ceremony was a spectacle on its own.
Instead of one, the president was asked to plunge the knife’s blade into three elaborately designed cakes.
The first was a cake designed in the style of Matopo Hills and so authentic did the cake look that it seemed to have been lifted out of the surrounding landscape and fitted on stage. The next two were equally impressive, with one bearing the country’s colours while the other was an impressive recreation of the presidential motorcade.
The elaborate cake designs seemed so fitting, particularly during the cake cutting when one of Africa’s most respected statesman was joined by his family.
Ever the trendsetters, the first family dazzled in their black cowboy hats which were accompanied by black jackets emblazoned with a likeness of the President and the colours of the country’s flag.
During the cake cutting, Dendera maestro Sulumani Chimbetu joined the police band in singing happy birthday to the President on a day in which some of the country’s finest voices, which included Mathias Mhere and Sandra, also came to celebrate the President’s big day.
No province, other than Matabeleland South, could have hosted such a bash to honour a unifier, a rainbow province where more than 10 of the country’s official indigenous languages are spoken.
Matobo derives from the Kalanga word “Matombo” and was indeed the perfect spot to celebrate the birthday of a rock upon which our country is built.