GWERU — A carnival atmosphere engulfed the Midlands capital yesterday as delegates to the Zanu PF conference started trickling in amid reports that all hotels and lodges in the city were fully booked
The conference commences today with party leader President Robert Mugabe expected to officially open it tomorrow.
Predictably, there was a heavy police presence on all roads leading into Gweru.
The Zanu PF Chimurenga Choir members were among the first to be accredited at Cecil John Rhodes Primary School followed by party officials and businesspeople from the Midlands province. The choir is known for bootlicking Mugabe through song and dance.
The process was generally relaxed as short queues formed at the accreditation desks.
However, a completely different picture obtained at the party’s newly-built 5 000-seater convention centre, 10km outside Gweru, where construction workers complained of being forced to work round the clock to complete the facility ahead of its inaugural official use today.
The heavy rains that pounded the city almost stalled progress at the site as workers battled to beat the deadline.
“We have been working 16 hours a day non-stop to try and finish this project in time for the official opening of the Zanu PF conference, but I am afraid that although the conference will happen here, this is more of a construction site than anything else,” said a worker who refused to be named.
Although seats on the lower and upper decks of the main conference hall had been fixed by midday, sound engineers were still installing the public address system in a yet-to-be-painted and decorated venue.
Floors were still dirty and in some sections unfinished after midday while painters struggled to add colour to the facility.
Most staff were working in the Presidential Suite which is expected to house most of Mugabe’s support staff, while all work in the Secretarial Suite had been stopped.
“Effort is now centred on the Presidential Suite which will be finished by midnight today, but the Secretarial Suite will have to be completed when we resume work on December 10,” said another source.
Midlands Development Association chairman Larry Mavhima maintained they were still within the deadline.
“What is left is cosmetic work. All the major work has been completed, so I am 150% sure that the conference facility will be ready,” Mavhima said.
Zesa workers had to brace the heavy downpour to erect power lines and floodlights around the $6,5 million conference centre.