By Everson Mushava and Moses Matenga
Opposition MDC leader Nelson Chamisa yesterday said his planned party rally scheduled for tomorrow at Mbare’s Stodart Hall would go ahead after being verbally cleared by the police.
The rally was initially scheduled for Wednesday last week at Mai Musodzi Hall, but police declined to clear the event, claiming it had the potential of disrupting the opening of schools’ first term on Tuesday January 14.
The party yesterday said it was mobilising its members to attend the event in their thousands.
Chamisa wants to use the occasion to spell out the MDC’s course of action for 2020 after most of their previous programmes were blocked by State security agencies.
“The address is on at 10am in Mbare, Stodart Hall,” Chamisa said in an interview with NewsDay.
“The address will be speaking to a programme of action for the nation: The big questions the nation is facing. It’s an agenda-setting address.”
MDC Harare provincial chairperson Wellington Chikombo confirmed that they had received verbal police clearance for the rally, which comes a few days after the law enforcement agents raided the opposition party’s headquarters claiming they were looking for machetes and other subversive materials.
“The police have cleared our presidential Sona (State of the nation address) to be addressed by none other than the people’s president,” he said.
MDC national organising secretary Amos Chibaya confirmed that police had verbally given them the greenlight and he was set to get the clearance letter today.
Chamisa rubbished government claims that he wanted to use the event to incite mass uprisings.
“They say we want to incite violence. If we want to incite violence, can we do that by an address? The biggest dilemma we have is an opposition that is in government and a government that is in opposition. Zanu PF has an opposing mentality, always opposing people’s freedom because it does not have the mandate of the people,” he said .
The youthful opposition leader has refused to recognise President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s leadership, accusing him of rigging the 2018 elections.
Several meetings by the opposition leader have, of late, been quashed by police and sometimes the army stepping in to violently disperse crowds.
When last week the police raided the Morgan Tsvangirai House searching for subversive materials, they accused the opposition of sponsoring a reign of terror through machete-wielding artisanal miners, popularly known as MaShurugwi, who are currently raiding mining communities across the country.
But Chamisa yesterday insinuated that “these are acts of command violence were directed from the top,” and challenged Mnangagwa to stop the gangsters before they become a national security threat.
“What is bizarre is that Mnangagwa has taken a very outrageous disposition, hear nothing, see nothing, say nothing and do nothing while the mabhemba menace continues,” Chamisa said.
“The machete or mabhemba movement is a real threat to national security and economic stability. The country’s economic recovery, without a good image of our country, will be difficult.”
He said the police raid on his party headquarters proved that Mnangagwa’s government has mastered the Selous Scout strategy of labelling, blaming and condemning to justify a crackdown on innocent people.
“Cowards are always afraid and violent. The guilty are afraid and when you confiscate your neighbour’s goat, you hardly sleep well. You know no peace. The slightest of sounds, you think that you are under siege. Even the sound of a neighbour coming to help becomes intimidating,” he said.
“They are now uncomfortable because they know what they did. How can you look for machetes at the party offices? We don’t have any mines. They are actually using tactics that even (Ian) Smith did not use on them,” Chamisa added.
But Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi denied claims that government was reluctant to rein in the marauding machete gangs.
“There is no silence. Police have arrested in excess of a thousand of them and more are being hunted down,” Mutodi said.
“All those who have committed crimes in mining areas are being brought to book and so far, a good number has been jailed. President Mnangagwa has clearly called for peace in the mining sector, accepting that the artisanal miners are important for our gold production, but also insisting that they should conduct their business under the ambit of the law.” NewsDay