President Robert Mugabe’s re-election bid took a tragic twist yesterday when an unidentified woman died during his rally at Chibuku Stadium in Chitungwiza.
Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said the woman died while trying to force her way into the stadium. Thousands of people had been lured with promises of free T-shirts and food.
“A 52-year-old woman was injured in a stampede as Zanu PF supporters tried to force their way into the stadium for the President’s rally,” Charamba said.
“The woman was injured as people were being stopped to enter the stadium where about 20 000 people were gathered. She was taken to Chitungwiza Hospital where she later died.
However, sources claim four people died at the rally.Thousands of people were bused to pack the stadium, as Zanu PF battles to convince opponents that it has massive support ahead of the July 31 elections.
But some of Zanu PF’s hungry supporters could not withstand the heat and shoving as officials sought to prove that the party had the capacity to draw large crowds by over-filling the stadium resulting in some women collapsing. Zanu PF supporters were bussed in from all over Harare while kombis ferrying commuters to the city were forcibly diverted to Chibuku Stadium for the rally.
A number of women collapsed and were ferried by ambulances to hospital after succumbing to the heat.
“We just saw her collapsing after complaining of hunger,” one elderly woman who helped the first aid crew said.
“We came here early in the morning and were made to sit in this heat without food or water.” Mugabe arrived at the rally at around midday and spoke for about an hour. In addition to his usual rhetoric about the British and a long lecture on Zimbabwean history, Mugabe promised to provide better housing conditions. He also promised to stop the Chitungwiza council from attaching properties of tenants who fail to pay rates.
“If voted into government, Zanu PF will resuscitate the collapsing industries and make sure that residents get water,” Mugabe added.