A Buoyant opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, and the interim president of the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF), Joice Mujuru, are teaming up against President Robert Mugabe and his warring Zanu PF in a mega demonstration planned for Harare on Wednesday next week.
This comes as panicking authorities, who continue to refuse to sanction protests organised by opposition parties coalescing under the banner of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera), are ramping up the deployment of police and other security agents in and around Harare.
Heavily-armed riot police littered all the main streets leading into the capital’s Central Business District (CBD) yesterday, where they mounted dozens of roadblocks and random searches on ordinary Zimbabweans going about their daily chores, and causing immense traffic chaos during both the morning and afternoon rush hours.
The Daily News was told yesterday that to crank up the heat on Mugabe and Zanu PF, and to drum up support for the planned November 30 massive demonstration, the irrepressible Tsvangirai had slated a star rally at the Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield on Saturday.
“The people of Zimbabwe are taking to the streets in their tens of thousands on November 30 as we continue our unrelenting, consistent and peaceful democratic resistance to the Zanu PF autocracy and dictatorship,” MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu confirmed.
ZPF spokesperson, Jealousy Mawarire, said his party was also gearing up for the planned mass protest in the capital.
“The fact that this is a Nera demonstration means that we have to moblise our supporters. Our Harare provincial executive is working on all the logistics,” he said.
The Daily News revealed last week that Tsvangirai has been secretly meeting with Mujuru over the past few weeks, raising fresh hopes among long-suffering Zimbabweans that the two will work together to end Mugabe and Zanu PF’s misrule in the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.
And since Mujuru joined hands with Tsvangirai and marched with him in the streets of Gweru in August this year — in a rare public display of unity of purpose among the opposition — there have been growing calls by fed up citizens for the formation of a grand opposition alliance.
At the same time, Tsvangirai’s MDC and ZPF have been playing leading roles in Nera, where 18 opposition political parties are demanding a raft of electoral reforms before the country holds the 2018 polls.
Among their demands are the cessation of the dual role being played by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec)’s chairperson, Rita Makarau, who is also secretary of the Judicial Commission; the reconstitution Zec’s secretariat which they claim is packed with Zanu PF functionaries; and transparency in the voter registration exercise.
In a statement yesterday, one of Nera’s conveners, Farai Mbira of the Zunde party, said the coalition would also be protesting against the imminent introduction of bond notes which have caused panic and anxiety among ordinary Zimbabweans who fear a return to the hyper-inflationary environment of 2008.
Mbira also took umbrage with the banning of yesterday’s planned demonstration by police and the dreaded Joint Operations Command (JOC), who invoked the Public Order and Security Act (Posa) to stop the protest.
The Posa clause that they invoked requires demonstration organisers to provide the police with the name of the person taking responsibility for the conduct and outcome of any protest.
“Clearly this requirement is aimed at targeting an individual for any undesirable outcome of the demonstration. Because of the late notification of the ban, Nera was left with few options of either ignoring JOC or taking it to court.
“After lengthy deliberations, we strategically chose to defer the demonstration to 30 November. We will not give up or surrender on our constitutional right to demonstrate and petition the government as enshrined in section 59 of the Constitution,” he said.
Political analysts who spoke to the Daily News said it was likely that Tsvangirai’s rally on Saturday would provide the impetus that the opposition needed to mount a successful demo next Wednesday, given the impact the MDC leader had had on March 11, 2007, during the Save Zimbabwe march which was also held at the same venue in Highfield.
Then, Tsvangirai and other pro-democracy heavy hitters who converged there were bludgeoned by armed police who also shot a well-known MDC supporters and cobbler, Gift Tandare in cold blood, leading to the eventual intervention in the Zimbabwean crisis by regional bloc Sadc.
The Saturday rally and the planned massive protest action on Wednesday come as Mugabe and his under fire government have come under increasing citizen pressure, despite the worsening State thuggery and human rights violations by security agents.
Suspected security agents left for dead activists and organisers of an aborted Harare demonstration last week, including Patson Dazamara, the young brother of missing journalist-cum-democracy activist Itai.
Patson was abducted and severely tortured in the wee hours of Friday morning, together with his three comrades — Ishmael Kauzani, Nathan Matadza and Nashe Salami.
They suffered a horrendous ordeal when unidentified armed men, suspected to be intelligence operatives, appeared from nowhere and blocked their car in the Harare high density suburb of Mufakose, where they had gone to pick up their other colleagues.
And before the hapless activists and bystanders had enough time to suss out what was happening, their assailants fired a volley of live bullets into the air to scare away any potential witnesses — leaving the quartet at the complete mercy of their abductors.
They were severely assaulted and tortured before they were dumped in bushy areas on the outskirts of Harare, leading to an outpouring of anger among Zimbabweans, rights groups and western embassies.
Mugabe, the only leader that Zimbabweans have known since the country gained independence from Britain in 1980, is facing growing pressure to quit office from ordinary citizens who accuse him and his government of ruining the country’s once vibrant economy.