Villagers such as these seen here being given treated mosquito nets in Gutu, rural Zimbabwe, are herded to the meeting place by ZANU PF activists, working with chiefs or against them if need be, and they are told that these things are brought to them and made possible by Mugabe
An amazing thing is happening here in Zimbabwe.
When Morgan Tsvangirai went into government, he said he was going in there to continue the politics of opposition, to fight from within.
I pointed out at the time that Mugabe had handed him a stink bomb, basically, by putting the Prime Minister in charge of policy formulation and implementation, meaning he would not be able to fulfil the role he set up when he announced the decision to join Mugabe in government.
He could not go into government to oppose policies he was charged with formulating and implementing.
Well, the amazing thing at the moment is that Mugabe is now using the state media, which he still controls, despite the GNU and the presence of a Deputy Minister from the MDC in that Information ministry, to act like the opposition and to campaign against the MDC.
The dictator's side of the government is being sly, praising Tsvangirai to his face and yet at the same time, de-campaigning him on issues using the state media.
On the 8 o'clock news on state radio last night, the newsreader and reporters went to town interviewing residents of Glen Norah, Lusaka in Highfields, Glen View, Budiriro and other townships.
With a faked pain in their voices, both residents and reporters told stories of raw sewage flowing in the streets of Highfields, running into the market where ladies sell vegetables and other wares.
They spoke of a city council that is collecting very high rates and yet is not able to restore water into people's taps, which is why Glen Norah, Highfields and Glen View, amongst many other townships, has had no water for some weeks now.
They wailed that the roads are still potholed. They cried that cholera is rearing its ugly head again because of the turned-off taps and the flowing raw sewage.
These are things I have spoken about plenty of times here on this blog, but Mugabe's party is now highlighting them and playing them up because the MDC is in charge of these things, since they have crushing majorities in the City Councils.
At the same time, Emmerson Mnangagwa is now being given HUGE prominence on state television. He is everywhere, addressing appropriately awed villagers as he did in the Midlands recently, where he promised manna from heaven because the province had given Mugabe "more MPs than any other province in Zimbabwe." So the vote buying starts....
Oppah Muchinguri who, for a long time now, has had to shoulder the burden in Zimbabwe of being widely, very widely rumoured to be Mugabe's girlfriend or "small house", was also on the news bulletin.
The former minister was reported to have announced that she will now restart those women empowerment projects that made Mugabe unassailable at one time with the women's vote. She is promising them money to start all sorts of small businesses as groups.
We know Mugabe and ZANU PF can do it, using state resources. That, after all was what Mugabe used the old Ministry of Women's Affairs for, using government money to dish out to his party's Women's League for projects, cooperatives and subsidised agricultural inputs.
The odd thing about this is that, by hiving off the policy formulation and implementation to the MDC, ZANU PF is now left free to start campaigning, without having to answer any questions about their abysmal record in office.
This is largely because the MDC appears to be asleep at the wheel. Since they discovered that Mugabe was their long-lost father, they are loathe to criticise him at all. They are quiet as ZANU PF picks holes in their service delivery and points out all their "failures" so far without actually being directly confrontational like they were during the old days.
Meantime, as the Mail and Guardian reported a few days ago, Tsvangirai is concentrating on sprucing up Mugabe's image: the paper says at one press conference, after a reporter asked Tsvangirai how he could "trust Mugabe", Tsvangirai shot back: "It's President Mugabe", putting emphasis on the Presidential title.
Mugabe's aim with this strategy: to cast enough doubt about the MDC's ability to lead to be able to at least disenchant MDC voters or win them over (dream on, I say). Still, Mugabe sits there and sniggers as the MDC fights his demons for him while he de-campaigns them subtly but unmistakably.
What he has managed to achieve is to remain in power, give responsibility to the MDC (it is now reliably confirmed that Mugabe actually hopes the MDC gets nothing from its partners in the west, which will lead to MDC failure to deliver and, hence, defeat at the next election. Mugabe has already said quite openly that the next elections will be one in which ZANU PF will have an MDC record in government to campaign against.") and still find room to turn on his partners in government because the onus to deliver services is no longer on ZANU PF but on the MDC.
It is a peculiar situation. Make no mistake about it, Mugabe is at his evil best when he is cornered. And he was cornered before the MDC decided to rescue him by going into government without thinking it through. He still feels cornered and this is his way of fighting his way out of that corner.
But, you really have to be here to see the way the roles are slowly, imperceptibly being reversed. By the time the MDC wakes up, I fear it may be too late. The song will be "We gave them the chance to run government and they failed......"
This dictator is getting away with more than his fair share of luck, I think. But the MDC, by folding its hands and pursuing power, positions and oneupmanship, is entirely missing the point.
Of course they never listen to advice like this, so we can expect to tragedy to play itself out.