By Everson Mushava
Opposition MDC leader Nelson Chamisa has chided President Emmerson Mnangagwa for putting the country into a de facto state of emergency and his reliance on the police to stifle dissenting voices against his “failed leadership.”
Chamisa made the remarks yesterday after the police on Wednesday blocked civil servants from marching and presenting petitions to the ministries of Labour and Finance over poor salaries.
“It is no longer an MDC issue; it is a people’s issue, a national survival issue,” Chamisa said.
“The country is now threatened by those in authority. We are in de facto state of emergency; a de facto police State. Everyone has become a criminal. We cannot have the police everyday fighting with the people on the street.”
On Wednesday, police blocked a handful of government workers from marching to government offices with a petition demanding better salaries, reneging on an earlier pledge to allow the demonstration to go ahead.
The protest was largely seen by many observers as an acid test for Mnangagwa’s willingness to tolerate dissent after banning protests by the MDC and worker unions.
Huge police deployments have stopped the opposition party from protesting against the deteriorating economic situation in the country, apart from using law enforcement agents to outlaw the protest.
In August, police banned MDC rallies that were supposed to spread to all cities across the country over the deteriorating economic situation in the country.
The police also banned yet another MDC protest planned for October 24, a day before the Mnangagwa’s Sadc solidarity anti-sanctions march and also blocked another one by the vendors last month after trying in vain to block another one by the doctors in September. Several protests by labour unions were also blocked by the police since August.
In January this year, police together with the military launched a violent crackdown against fuel protests called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and social movements, resulting in the death of at least 17 people at the hands of security agents.
Police have also on several occasions blocked teachers from protesting against poor working conditions and last week locked down the Harare CBD to prevent vendors from demonstrating against the death of their colleague in remand prison days after he was brutally assaulted by police officers.
“Mnangagwa’s days are numbered. Terror and tyranny are not sustainable instruments of leadership. The two are perishable instruments of power. He should simply give people the right to express themselves,” Chamisa said.
“Relying on violence is a sign of weak leadership. This only shows that his days are numbered. One cannot unleash violence on the people who work for him.
“Why should he look at civil servants as evil serpents? Why block their march, why fire doctors, is it because they are treated outside the country? Why punish doctors, look at the investment in training them? Why do you fire what you have in short supply? How does that work, victimising people demanding decent wages.”
Government this week fired 77 doctors who had been on strike for over 60 days demanding salaries indexed on the US dollar interbank rate.
The decision by government not to resolve its impasse with the doctors has been widely criticised for destroying the country’s public health sector. But Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi denied that the civil servants were denied the right to march.
“No one was blocked from marching. The civil servants marched but police blocked the offices of the Labour minister and that of the Finance minister as a precautionary measure as well as to guarantee the security of the ministers,” Mutodi said, this despite that the marchers were restricted to only a 100 metre radius at the Public Service Association House.
“Chamisa is trying to capitalise on demonstrations as he hopes to attain power through the back door. That will not happen. We are a democratic country and we follow the Constitution. Government is aware of the plight of its workers and will be addressing the concerns they have raised including an upward adjustment of their salaries.”
But Chamisa said Mnangagwa was hypocritical for blocking others from protesting at a time he allowed his own protests to go ahead.
“The irony is you prohibit Zimbabweans to demonstrate when they want to do so in their large numbers but you allow yourself to demonstrate when people don’t want to join you, like what you did at the anti-sanctions march,” Chamisa said.
“People boycotted because they don’t believe in your leadership. In leadership, when you don’t have followers, you are just walking. The anti-sanctions march showed that the President was just walking.”
The opposition leader said government can’t tell its workers that it was broke and unable to hike their salaries when Mnangagwa spent millions hiring a private luxury jet, receive treatment in foreign lands and children of his top administration study abroad.
The youthful leader said corruption in public institutions was the biggest vice denying diligent workers living wages.
Heavy police presence, Chamisa said, will not deter his party from taking “available legal remedies to enforce restoration of rule of law.”
“We believe in peace. We still have the Constitution as our instrument and it is the duty of the people to create new circumstances within the confines of the law. The new circumstances are decided by the people of Zimbabwe and the power is in our hands,” Chamisa said, without elaborating.
He, however, admitted that dialogue was important, but said consensus was indispensable. “Dialogue is important but it is generational consensus that is important. When people fought the liberation struggle, there was generational consensus.
“The liberation struggle succeeded because there was consensus. Now, we need a democratisation and transformation consensus. Dialogue can only be predicated on consensus, when there is a uniform definition of the problem as well as the solution,” Chamisa said.
He said Zimbabwe’s problems were mainly political.
“Our politics must be fixed in order to fix the economy. Solve the political problems first and the economy will follow. Good politics breeds good economics,” he said. NewsDay