ZANU PF supporters, who were bussed to the mining indaba in Gweru to beef up numbers ahead of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s address on Wednesday, caused a raucous at feeding points as they threatened to run away with the delegates’ food if they continued to be denied access to lunch.
Anti-riot police had to called in to quell the restive crowd.
In a bid to avoid the embarrassment of addressing empty chairs at crucial events like what happened at previous events in Harare and Mashonaland Central, the Zanu PF Midlands provincial leadership took a decision to bus its supporters from all districts to fill up the Gweru Convention Centre, where Mnangagwa was guest speaker.
Midlands State University students, college students and mothers with babies on their backs as well as the elderly were also bussed to the venue that was supposed to be purely a formal business meeting of mine owners and government officials, among other stakeholders.
The situation degenerated into chaos as the Zanu PF supporters occupied front seats with delegates, who had paid for the two-day event and those accredited, failing to get comfortable places inside the venue.
During lunch time, the Zanu PF supporters clogged VIP delegates’ feeding points and riot police had to be called in to crush the restive activists who were clad in party regalia.
However, Dosman Mangisi, the Zimbabwe Mining Federation spokesperson said there was nothing wrong with what Zanu PF did at the event.
“Zanu PF has strong grassroots in rural areas, as people in the rural mining district are bonafide members of ruling party, they felt it necessary to be in solidarity with it since it champions empowerment programmes. It was not a party event at all. The issues articulated were all mining related,” he said.
Mangisi confirmed witnessing the fracas that saw riot police being called in.
“I did see that happening because I was part of the security. One big thing to note is that the small-scale miners were excited to interface with the Head of State and government, the chief principal of the mining sector. It was an inaugural event. The event has already been placed on the annual calendar,” he said.
Mangisi denied reports by miners that they had failed to get food as the organisers had to feed Zanu PF supporters.
“Delegates were well fed. It’s only that the event finished a bit late, and people had to go.
Delegate cards were less in terms of the numbers,” he said.
Asked on whether the organisers expected the large numbers that turned up at the meeting causing confusion in the process, Mangisi said: “We were expecting the figures, Midlands has 20 associations and each association was supposed to bring 200 miners. We had people from Mt Darwin, Plumtree, Mutare and Makuti, which are far from Midlands. Each province was supposed to bring 2 000 miners as targets. And there are about 1,5 million miners in the country. The conference hall has an 8 000 sitting capacity.”
However, miners, who spoke to Southern Eye expressed disappointment, saying they never anticipated the event to become a political gathering.