ALMOST nine years ago, war veteran Jabulani Sibanda was the face behind the former fighters’ efforts to organise a million-man march to prop up President Robert Mugabe who was undersiege from Zanu PF factions.
Sibanda led thousands of Zanu PF supporters that marched through the streets of Harare, paving the way for Mugabe to be nominated unopposed as the ruling party’s candidate ahead of elections the following year, where he was embarrassed by MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mugabe had to resort to violence to cling on to power as he ran unopposed in the run-off poll after Tsvangirai was prevented from campaigning and had many of his supporters murdered.
On Africa Day last week, Sibanda — now an outcast — was in rural Nyamandlovu as Zanu PF made another attempt at a million-man march to rally support for Mugabe, whose backers believe he is being ambushed by a faction linked to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Sibanda believes his former party has not learnt from history and has joined the chorus by Mugabe critics who are baffled by the idea behind Zanu PF’s expensive adventure.
“For them as a political party it [march] was good,” he said as he emphasised that he had cut ties with the party he once campaigned for passionately.
“They did what they did and brought 70 000 people but the question that should be asked is that, this country has about 15 million citizens and so where are the 14,3 million? Are these people registered as voters?
“Are these people strong enough to say this is right and this is wrong?” he asked.
“I think the people that went to that one million-man march, whatever number it was, were trying to say can he [president] do something to save the country.
“People still believe that he can call the political parties together and find a solution to this country.
“These 70 000 people from all the provinces still believe he can do something to save the country.”
Mugabe did not dwell on the economy during his address to the crowd that gathered at an open ground near Rainbow Towers Hotel.
The march came at a time when Zimbabwe’s economy is imploding, with cash shortages worsening with each day.
At least four million Zimbabweans are facing hunger due to the El Niño-induced drought, but Mugabe’s address was thin on solutions as he vowed to hang on to power.
Speaker after speaker sang praises for Mugabe, with his wife Grace declaring the 92-year-old leader would rule from the grave.
Mugabe promised to dole out stands to Zanu PF supporters in exchange for votes in 2018.
However, Sibanda said it was unlikely Mugabe will win those elections. He said the method used to provide accommodation to the people was ill-advised.
“It is clear now Zanu PF cannot win an election or make up the economy for this country to start working again,” he said.
“Most people went there because they were promised stands. Using stands as a campaigning tool is going to cause challenges in terms of planning.
“Harare is expanding towards Norton and Norton is expanding towards Chegutu and Bulawayo towards Nyamandlovu.
“The government should think about building upwards and not sideways.”
Sibanda says Zanu PF has failed to use the mandate it won, albeit controversially, at the last elections in 2013, hence the pointless marches.
“The last three years were the worst ever, wasted years of a ruling party with two thirds majority in government,” he said.
He said the government should have sorted a lot of issues affecting Zimbabwe such as land ownership, currency problems and the economy.
Sibanda said he understood how people who went to the solidarity march feel, but more was required from the Zanu PF government.
“I understand their feeling about the president. He served in the African Union and Sadc, I accept that. There are some things he did right such as standing up for Africa at the United Nations, I accept that and that there are things he contributed in the liberation of this country,” he said.
“However, what should be considered is that 36 years into independence, we don’t have a national currency of our own and with the experience we have in government, we didn’t manage our mineral resources such as diamonds well.”
Sibanda said Zimbabweans have been betrayed on numerous issues such as corruption by the Zanu PF government, the reckless manner in which the extractive sector has been managed, particularly the diamonds, the genocide that happened in parts of Matabeleland and the lack of consensus among government ministers.
He blasted Mugabe for failing to act on the advice given to him by former South African President Thabo Mbeki concerning corrupt ministers in Zimbabwe.
Sibanda said the country should be very careful and maintain peace and stability or risk descending into chaos like Libya and Syria.
He said anger was building among citizens and if the situation did not get better, things would fall apart.
“This country is open to anything. Ninety percent of the citizens are not employed and in half of the streets in Bulawayo and Harare, people are selling second-hand clothes because there is no employment,” Sibanda said.
“The number of buses crossing into other countries, say each person with $100 goes to buy second-hand clothes and other things, surely that is going to run us dry.”
He said the situation would likely get out of hand if South Africa fails to renew work permits for some of the estimated three million Zimbabweans who sought refuge there as their struggling country had nothing to offer them.
Sibanda said there was no plausible reasons why Zimbabwe was poor as the country was blessed with a wide range of natural resources.
“Our country has diamonds and we have to be very careful,” he said.
“Our government has the responsibility to secure its political understanding among its citizens and unfortunately, that understanding is not there.
“We have political and economic stability and these things are attractive to the people that cause commotion in the country.”
Sibanda said it was reckless to plan without putting the future into perspective and the government was full of policies that do not go beyond the current generation.
The former freedom fighter has been linked to former vice-president Joice Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First party.
He was expelled from Zanu PF along with hundreds of Mujuru’s supporters after they were accused of plotting to assassinate Mugabe.
Sibanda was in 2014 arrested for allegedly saying First Lady Grace Mugabe was engineering a bedroom coup as the president’s wife pushed the veteran ruler to throw Mujuru out of government.