Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Friday hailed a pastor who has led recent protests that have shaken the government of veteran strongman President Robert Mugabe.
Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has not been directly involved in the surge of demonstrations, but the party hopes to benefit from the growing public criticism of Mugabe, 92.
“I want congratulate Pastor (Evan) Mawarire and other pressure groups and other ordinary citizens of this country who continue to send a loud message that the nation is now fed up,” Tsvangirai told reporters.
“I totally applaud what efforts he is making, it is converging with our national efforts. I am very proud of him.
“The nation is hurting and life is tough for everyone outside the parasitic elite.”
Mawarire, who was arrested and then released this week over his popular ThisFlag internet campaign, has steered clear of allying with the MDC or any political party in Zimbabwe.
Instead, he has called for national strikes to protest against state corruption and the country’s economic collapse that has left government struggling to pay its workers.
“President Mugabe and his government must step down or face popular protest,” Tsvangirai said.
“I am giving President Mugabe an opportunity to ‘soft-land’ this national crisis.
“He will have only himself to blame if citizens take matters in their own hands.”
The MDC has been weakened by splits since Tsvangirai joined a power-sharing government with Mugabe from 2009 to 2013, but it held a large protest in Harare earlier this year.
Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980, has previously used his ruthless security forces to crack down on any public show of dissent.
A day-long nationwide strike last week closed offices, shops, schools and some government departments.
Plans for further strikes this week fell flat after many civil servants were paid their delayed salaries and the government vowed a crackdown on any protests. AFP