MORE than 15 000 people yesterday thronged Manqe area in Tsholotsho District to witness the official commissioning of the first rural school with ultra-modern computers in the country's southern region.
The school, Landa J Nkomo High, is the brainchild of Vice-President Landa John Nkomo who was born and educated in the Manqe area.
There was pomp and fanfare in a hectic six hours in which villagers rubbed shoulders with Cabinet Ministers, Members of the House of Assembly, Senators, traditional leaders, diplomats and service chiefs in celebrating the phenomenal occasion.
The day will go down in the annals of history as the first concrete step taken to narrow the gap of ICT knowledge between urban and rural schools in the region.
By 7am thousands of people had swamped the venue with about 30 tents each with a holding capacity of 300 people not enough to shelter them.
The thousands of chairs that had been availed for the occasion were not sufficient and more than half of the crowd had to stand or sit on the dusty ground throughout the proceedings.
Vibrant entertainment in the form of song, dance and poetry kept the large gathering spellbound.
When President Mugabe arrived at around 10.45am there was thunderous applause as people welcomed their leader.
President Mugabe then toured the school facilities, the modern administration block, on-going construction work which includes a modern science laboratory and a home economics block and the completed state of the art ICT Centre.
A local poet Obert Dube warmed up the appreciative crowd with a praise poem for VP Nkomo.
He exalted the VP for his role in the development of Tsholotsho and going back to his roots to empower communities where he grew up.
Dube left the crowd, particularly school children with a witty anecdote in which he said "If you do not work at school you will have to work hard at work."
Famous Gwanda based praise poet Lerato Nqindi Ndlovu also took to the stage with his unorthodox brand of poetry that stunned the crowd into silence and then sustained applause.
The San community also displayed their scintillating traditional dances that amused the crowd and provided a glimpse into their sheltered way of life.
Also providing entertainment were popular musicians Jeys Marabini and Chase Skuza.
A total of 19 cattle were slaughtered for the occasion and the crowd had enough to eat.
There was brisk business for vendors who made a killing from the capacity crowd with ice cream vendors running out of their wares by 2pm.
Statutory bodies that include EMA and Parks also took the opportunity to exhibit and educate villagers.
Dignitaries included Vice-President Joice Mujuru, Deputy Prime Thokozani Khupe and Ministers, Francis Nhema, Obert Mpofu, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Sekai Holland, Kembo Mohadi, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, Nelson Chamisa, David Coltart and former Minister of Health and Child Welfare Dr Timothy Stamps.
Deputy Ministers present included Andrew Langa and Seiso Moyo.
Governors Thokozile Mathuthu, Angeline Masuku and Cain Mathema, Martin Dinha were also present as well as the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Constantine Chiwenga,
Zimbabwe National Army commander Lieutenant-General Philip Valerio Sibanda, Deputy commander of Zimbabwe Prisons Services Rhodes Moyo, Airforce Vice-Marshal Elson Moyo and commander of One Brigade, Brigadier-General Thomas Moyo.
There was also the Zanu-PF National Chairman Cde Simon Khaya Moyo, Member of the House of Assembly for Tsholotsho North Professor Jonathan Moyo, Zimbabwe's Ambassador to South Phelekezela Mphoko, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda and his deputy, Ray Ndlukula, Politburo members, Retired Colonel Tshinga Dube, Dr Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, acting Bulawayo chairman Cde Killian Sibanda and youth leader Cde Butho Gatsi as well as Tsholotsho Senator Believe Gaule.
As people left for their destinations on foot, scotch-carts, bicycles, lorries, buses, motorists driving to Bulawayo had a torrid time as they drove bumper to bumper because of the traffic volume from Manqe Village to Tsholotsho Centre.
A villager who identified herself as Gogo MaSibanda (80) summed up the occasion with these words: "I have never seen such a huge gathering. John Nkomo has made us proud," she said.The Chronicle