By Brenna Matendere and Moses Matenga
The Nelson Chamisa-led MDC says it is tired of the political stand-off in the country and of government using the police to crush opposition activities and is, therefore, planning to roll out fresh protests, a top party official has revealed.
Police this year banned several MDC gatherings, saying they feared the events would turn violent, but the opposition party accuses President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration of using heavy-handed tactics to close the democratic space.
“Fellow Zimbabweans, brothers and sisters, my message to you all is that time for change is now. No one can free us, but ourselves. The debilitating crisis of Zimbabwe now demands action,” MDC organising secretary Amos Chibaya said in a statement.
“The rogue regime is taking us down the garden path by promises of a better Zimbabwe. On November 17, 2017, we jumped from a frying pan into the fire after the coup. It is now time to pour into the streets and send a clear message to the dictator that enough is enough.”
Chibaya’s statement came a day after he was cleared by the courts on charges of attempting to overthrow Mnangagwa’s government during protests in January that started when government increased fuel prices by 150%.
Mnangagwa, who took over as leader of the southern African country after his predecessor, the late Robert Mugabe — who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years — was ousted by his own generals in a coup two years ago.
Mugabe died at a Singapore hospital on September 6 and was privately buried 22 days later at his rural home in Zvimba following a nasty fallout with Mnangagwa.
Last week, police used batons, teargas and water cannons to beat up and disperse MDC supporters who had gathered outside their party headquarters in the capital to listen to a speech by Chamisa.
Two days later, Mnangagwa defended his record in an editorial opinion piece in international media, saying his administration was opening up political and media space.
Chibaya, however, said violence against members of his party by Mnangagwa’s government would not deter the opposition party from launching more protests to pressure the President to address the country’s political and economic challenges.
“The country is (now) rooted in entrenched dictatorship which does not require body massaging, but real action of sustained peaceful demonstrations,” he said.
“The streets should become our second homes. The recent infamous actions by police to crush our demonstrations should not deter us. Let them kill us all, but we die saving our future generations.”
The Mkoba legislator called upon State security members to sympathise with the protesters, instead of being used to crush them.
On Monday, MDC youths took to the Harare Magistrates’ Court to protest what they called State-assisted closure of democratic space, with the police denying them the right to hold public gatherings or demonstrations while the ruling Zanu PF enjoys unfettered freedom.
Nearly 20 youths led by Gift Ostallos Siziba, the youth assembly spokesperson, walked into the magistrates’ court with tape covering their mouths, accusing Mnangagwa’s government of using the police and courts to curtail political freedom for ordinary Zimbabweans.
Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said authority for MDC to hold fresh protests would be determined by regulating authorities in areas where the opposition party plans to roll out the demonstrations.
“Notifications of demonstrations are not directed to Police General Headquarters where I am. So I am unable to give additional information on the planned demonstrations by MDC.
“We are not privy to such reports of planned demonstrations. As it stands and whether or not the demonstrations will be allowed is an issue for the commanders at districts. I cannot comment on their behalf,” Nyathi said.
Chamisa on Tuesday ordered his party structures to be vigilant and change tact to regain ground in the wake of an unofficial ban of his party business by the State.
Chamisa met Harare provincial structures on Tuesday, where he said there was need for the province to work extra hard to occupy “zones of autonomy” and devise strategies meant to counter the ban by police of the party gatherings.
Chamisa’s spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda said the MDC leader’s move to engage provinces was a deliberate strategy to deal with attempts to silence him by the Mnangagwa administration.
“The activities he is bringing are meant to bring the party to the people and are a strategic move to make sure that the people are able to protect the organisation and are able to prevent this unofficial ban of the organisation by the State and the military. There is co-relation between that and the activities he is undertaking,” Sibanda said.
“He is aligning provinces with objectives of the congress and making sure the organs of the party are performing at their highest. All deployees in government and party should work and there is framework he is pursuing and that the party progresses and increases its strength.”
Harare province MDC chairman Wellington Chikombo said Chamisa, as the commander, was rallying his troops to work for change, which he said was nigh.
In the address, Chamisa is said to have told his councillors and MPs to be visible and take control of the streets, a statement viewed as pushing for more action on the ground.
“He who controls the streets will define the State,” Chamisa reportedly told the meeting. NewsDay