Picture this: When President Emmerson Mnangagwa addresses rallies in most parts of Zimbabwe, there are dozens of security personnel around him armed with guns.
His supporters spend long hours, waiting for his arrival and after he has delivered his speech, they troop back to their homes without “putting anything in their mouths” (eating).
Saturday’s interface meeting with the white community in Harare was a rally with a difference.
His audience was served with tea, scones and biscuits.
Security was not tight, and he could freely mix and mingle with his guests.
Indeed, the former Chirumhanzu-Zibagwe legislator is leaving no stone unturned in his bid to secure the ticket to State House if the five-star treatment accorded whites on Saturday is anything to go by.
With just a few days before the make-or-break polls next Monday, Mnangagwa did not disappoint his audience either, as he gave them some “take-away” in the form of assurances that those who want to pursue their dreams in Zimbabwe were free to do so.
But Zimbabweans have reacted with great amusement at how the president pampered his audience when he has never done the same with the majority.
It was racist, some alleged.
Twitter went ablaze with posts branding the president a “man suffering from inferiority complex”.
As usual, former Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo could not be left out in hurling barbs at the president.
A fierce critic of the Zanu PF leader, who came to power through a soft military coup, Moyo likened Mnangagwa’s “all whites rally” with the apartheid era in South Africa when people were padlocked according to their race.
“Throwback to Abel Muzorewa’s Zimbabwe-Rhodesia: Sights from Mnangagwa’s two apartheid-style rallies, for “povo” at Rudhaka Stadium in Marondera a “whites interface” with tea, biscuits and muffins at Borrowdale Race course in Harare. In 2018 it’s inclusive politics stupid!” Moyo wrote on micro-blogging platform, Twitter.
“Mnangagwa’s apartheid-style ‘White People Rally’ featuring scones, jam and biscuits is an absolute disgrace. We have an ideologically bankrupt president. White people are cringing. Black people are cringing. These primitive men are stuck in the past,” Moyo added.
A few minutes later, Mnangagwa, who has at his disposal State resources, including helicopters, was in Marondera and there he did not mingle with the people.
Instead, every soul who had come to listen to his election promises was subjected to a thorough search.
There was no tea, not even bread — only tight security.
One journalist expressed his amusement on twitter over Mnangagwa’s treatment of his kith and kin compared to the whites.
“At the ‘Whites Only’ rally in Borrowdale, something unusual happened. Emmerson Mnangagwa stood up to mingle with his white guests, on top of serving tea. A message was sent out: I feel safer with this lot,” tweeted the journalist.
Perhaps there is a method to the approach, after all Zanu PF, the party that now Mnangagwa leads has always been accused of racism.
In his message posted on Facebook, the former Speaker of Parliament said he wants unity among all Zimbabweans.
“Today, in Harare and Marondera, we talked about our concrete plan for infrastructure, agriculture, energy and jobs, which will create real and sustainable growth for the benefit of all Zimbabweans.
“I also explained how peace, love, unity and mutual respect are vital for us to move forward and fulfil our national destiny.
“This is something we must all remember as we approach the elections.
“Step by step, we are building a new, prosperous and stable Zimbabwe for all,” said Mnangagwa.
His critics are, however, not amused.
Some say his politics is divisive given that he once had an all Asian interface meeting.
“From all white parties by young looters to all white rallies by racist presidential candidate where tea and cake is served by blacks. Edu maRally ndiwo ekuhuruva,” Sydney Chasi an MDC activist wrote on Facebook.
Another man tweeted, “Zanu PF rally for whites versus for blacks. Tea served at a white rally versus air pies for the hungry blacks. Why discriminate people of your own colour.”
While academic and journalist Zenzele Ndebele said what is good for the goose must also be good for the gander.
“If Mnangagwa can hold a whites interface rally why can’t he hold a Ndebele interface rally and apologise for Gukurahundi,” said Ndebele.
Mnangagwa has refused to apologise for the Gukurahundi atrocities saying it is now in the past but at his interface rally with the whites he was at pains to explain the land reform programme that saw most whites losing their land, he did not apologise.
Alex Magaisa, a former advisor of the late MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai drew parallels between the racist Rhodesian government and Mnangagwa.
“Tea and cake, anyone? I wonder whose bright idea this was. Did they also remember to tell Zec (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to prepare the White Roll like in 1980?” queried Magaisa.