ZANU Politics Hijack Miss Tourism Zimbabwe
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Mugabe's millionaire nephew, Phillip Chiyangwa, caused panic in the ranks of Miss Tourism Zimbabwe hopefuls this week when he quizzed them on ZANU-PF history - and reacted with fury when they didn't know the answers.
The 35 girls were asked to detail the structure of Zimbabwe's defence forces, to name five people who started the country's war for independence and to identify a chief of defence in the 1970s guerrilla army.
"You should know the country's politics," Chiyangwa told the stunned contestants, who thought they'd come to a hotel in the capital Harare for a simple "grooming" session ahead of the finals for the Miss Tourism Zimbabwe contest tomorrow. The winner will represent Zimbabwe in the Miss World contest.
"Our leader is Robert Gabriel Mugabe and you should like him and his administration and pay attention to his gatherings. If you want to be our queen, play ball with us," he said.
Embarrassed contestants said they were not "conversant" with Chiyangwa's brand of history.
Mugabe, who turns 87 this month, is determined to hold elections this year and is cranking up his propaganda machine to ensure he stays in power.
War veterans have even urged him to dissolve parliament and call a snap election after a two-year-old coalition deal with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) expires on Sunday - though that would infuriate South African president Jacob Zuma, who is pushing for reforms to be implemented.
Mugabe is keen to pin the shortages and hyperinflation of Zimbabwe's disastrous last decade on what he calls "illegal sanctions" imposed by Britain, the EU and the US.
Anti-sanctions fliers are being distributed on the streets. They show an emaciated man who looks like a cholera patient drinking from a plastic cup.
Yesterday, ZANU-PF announced it had set up an Ideological College to "unite" people.
It will provide lectures including one on the "Characteristics of a Revolutionary Leader".
Mugabe insists Mr Tsvangirai cannot be president because he is not a revolutionary leader. The MDC leader won the first round of presidential elections in March 2008 but pulled out of the second round after 200 of his supporters were killed.
ZANU-PF has a history of hijacking beauty contests, organising glitzy presentations of cars and cash for models while millions wallow in poverty.
"This is part and parcel of ZANU-PF's propaganda onslaught to try to get in anywhere where there is visibility," political analyst John Makumbe told The Scotsman.
"They are desperate to get the young people's support." Chiyangwa, who was once jailed on suspicion of spying for South Africa, told contestants everything they wore "including underwear" would be monitored.
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