Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party has called for a march and rally in Harare on Wednesday to show solidarity with under-fire First Lady Grace Mugabe who received condemnation after her South African "wrath".
Grace assaulted 20-year-old South African model Gabriella Engels with an extension cord two weeks ago and severely injured her after she found her with one of her two sons, Bellarmine Chatunga, at a hotel in Sandton.
Following a police report by Engels, the First Lady was granted diplomatic immunity by South African authorities in a move that was criticised by human rights organisations in both Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Zanu-PF's political commissar for Harare Province, Shadreck Mashayamombe, said the procession would culminate in a rally at the party's headquarters in downtown Harare.
President Mugabe and his wife were expected to address the Zanu-PF supporters, who were reportedly set to be drawn from all the country’s provinces.
Machinery in motion
"Zanu-PF Harare provincial executive is hereby inviting all members of the party and all progressive Zimbabweans to attend a solidarity meeting of the First Lady Dr Grace Mugabe on Wednesday 30 August 2017 at Zanu-PF HQ," read an internal memo signed by Mashayamombe.
Following the notice of the meeting, another notice released by Abicia Ushewokunze, the ruling party’s information and publicity secretary for Harare Province, said that prior to the rally, there would be marches from different points in the capital to the ruling party’s headquarters.
Zanu-PF had already put its machinery into motion, with another notice from the party’s Masvingo provincial commissar, Jeppy Jaboon, requesting the Zanu-PF party faithful to contribute towards Wednesday’s event.
"This is an opportunity for us to prove our allegiance to our President VaMugabe (Mr Mugabe). We are inviting everyone for this important meeting. We will be expecting each constituency to be represented, at least provide a bus," said Jaboon.
The rally was jointly organised by a war veterans' group led by Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister Mandiita Wepi Chimene.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change party led by Morgan Tsvangirai and other civic groups criticised the planned procession and rally.
"Every sane person out there knows that Zimbabwe is run by a deeply entrenched and fascist Zanu-PF dictatorship fronted by Robert Mugabe. Instead of organising a so-called solidarity rally in support of Grace Mugabe, Mandi Chimene and others of her ilk should actually be organising a demonstration against violence; particularly violence against women and the girl child," said MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu.
"The whole world knows that Grace Mugabe brutally assaulted a young woman aged 20, Gabriella Engels, in South Africa, a few weeks ago. Grace is the aggressor and Engels is the victim. Where in the decent and normal world would you get a solidarity march being organised in support of a violent and aggressive bully? Chimene doesn't sound like she is in control of her faculties."