President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week was in one of his most jovial moods, dedicating the bulk of his speech at the St Noah College Stadium and Sports Centre ground-breaking ceremony to jokes that left the rural community of Marange, Manicaland Province, in stitches.
Less than seven minutes into his address, the President digressed to the other side of his political career, demonstrating his humour and ability to bring his audiences to rib-cracking laughter.
He told the crowd of over 35 000 people that he was happy to meet them, not only in his personal capacity, but as Head of State, emphasising that those who were not happy to meet him should blame themselves.
“It is your fault if you are not happy to meet me, hallelujah,” to which the mainly apostolic sect crowd echoed a thunderous and reverberating “Ahhhmen”, followed by deafening whistles, ululations and the clapping of hands.
Seeing the response from the crowd, the President went on: “This is a sign of happiness, where there is happiness, the Lord is also happy that His flock is happy on the land.”
Said President Mnangagwa: “Saka makazovona kuti ndakazotoravo mudzimai anobva kuno kumuitawo (Zanu-PF) chairman, haazi chairwoman, asi chairman uyo (Cde Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri). Achitora chinzvimbo chava (Herbert) Chitepo handiti? Zvinhu zvakanaka. Ngazvirambe zvichingonaka, zvigongonaka, tichigongofara tichingofara.
The late Cde Chitepo hailed from Manicaland and was the first Zanu-PF chairman.
On the day, the President seemed obsessed with the word “hallelujah”. He also punctuated all the good things he spoke of with the name of the Almighty.
Some people in the crowd could be heard saying: “President Mnangagwa is really on his religious side today.”
Turning to the leader of the church, St Noah Taguta, the President said congregants in Marange should benefit more due to their close proximity to the church leader.
The joke is reminiscent of that told by politicians who, because of their desire to ensure communities benefit from various projects in their areas, tell people to utilise the jails built in their areas and not “let those from far places fill them up before locals get a chance”.
“Iko zvinozvi, St Noah (Taguta) mutumwa havasiri mutumwa chete muno muBocha, kana manga muchiti ndevenyu moga, madzva,” he said.
“Vava vedu, vekwedu kwatiri ukoo, nekuyambuka mhiri kune dzimwe nyika, kune vakawanda, vakawanda.
“Kunotowunganwa uko kuDRC neku Angola kupfura imwi, ah, weduwe, muporofita ari mamuri, mopfurwa neku DRC, nekuAngola, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique? Hallelujah!”
President Mnangagwa said during the liberation struggle, fighters were led by the Lord of War.
“Now we call upon the Lord of Peace, Hallelujah!”
Turning to politics, the President left the gathering in stitches when he said small political parties are emerging in the country, but likened them to families where one member might be mentally challenged, but that person remains part of the family.
“Ko imwe (political) party ingangomukawo zvayo, zvinongoratidza kuti kana mumba mungangozvarwa vana mukawanda sei, kunowanikwawo mapenzi anenge arimo asi vanongori vana,” he said.
“Asi zvakakodzera hama dzangu kuti wanikwavo uri kuvatongi kwete kuvatongwa. Sekereke inoi inofamba nevatongiiii.”
After the political jibe, the President jokingly tried to appear as if he had lost the plot, reminding himself that: “No, ndanga ndakanganwa kuti handi zvatavinga, tavinga kuzoparura kuvaka ekera, stadium handiti?”
There was more laughter in response to that.
But before long and after spelling out some Government policy programmes on reviving the economy, President Mnangagwa found himself back on the hilarious side.
“Mungava munovona musingavonesesi, munonzwa musinganzwisisi, asi kana muchiwona memaziso emweya moziva kwatinoinda kune chiedza, asi kana uchiona neziso renyama unoona paunotsika. Halellujah!”
The President said he yearns to be invited after the completion of the stadium to see men from the church, in their long beards, playing soccer.
He said the church leadership’s invitation for him to return in two years’ time for the official opening of the completed stadium is testimony that the prophets had seen him living for two more years.
On the issue of discipline, the country’s leader said he had been called “Baba” by the church leaders; and as a soldier, that was enough for him to call the shots.
“Ah by the way, kwahi ndiri baba ve stadium, saka vana, vakomana navasikana, ehh ini ndiri musoja, discipline, hapana anopinda mustadium yangu anotuka baba, anotuka mai, hapana, ndinokusvasvanga,” he warned.
“Nekuti ndiri baba vestadium ndoda discipline, ukanzi stand up, womira, sit down wogara, kosora wokosora.”
The President donated 100 computers to the school, before challenging the crowd to make him happy so that he could increase the number.
Following the gathering’s cheers, President Mnangagwa added 100 more computers and increased his cash donation from $20 000 to $50 000.
The gathering received Zanu-PF T-Shirts, caps and wrapping cloths for the women.
Recently, the President was in province for the official renaming ceremony of Headquarters 3 Infantry Brigade Barracks in Mutare to Herbert Chitepo Barracks.
He also addresed bumper crowds at Murambinda B Primary School in Buhera and at Sakubva Stadium in Mutare.
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