Dumisani Muleya/Blessing Zulu
MOVEMENT for Democratic Change (MDC) leaders yesterday pledged to be in the forefront of protests aimed at piling pressure on President Robert Mugabe to go as the political and
economic crisis in the country deepens.
The party yesterday spelt out its course of action ahead of Monday’s mass action.
MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi told the Zimbabwe Inde-pendent that his party was fine-tuning its strategy to stage anti-government street protests.
“We are currently finalising the tactics and getting ready to go,” Nyathi said. “Zimbabweans have a clear choice on this matter: to acquiesce in the current illegitimate regime or to stand up for their rights once and for all.”
Stressing that MDC leaders would be at the forefront of the protests, Nyathi said the sequence of events in their strategy was already in place.
“On the first day of the mass action, which is on Monday, people will congregate in the central business districts of all cities and towns,” he said. “The venues of assembly will be announced by organisers in different places.”
On the second and third days, Nyathi said, people will demonstrate wherever they find themselves. He said local party structures would be used to co-ordinate the action.
“During the last two days of the mass action (Thursday and Friday) there will be a change of tactics. People will be asked to stay at home,” he said.
“But there might be changes depending on how the situation unfolds.”
Nyathi said the MDC would announce the targets for the marches on the days in question. They have yet to be selected. The MDC has made no secret of its desire to target State House but it is likely to be heavily defended. So is Munhumutapa Building.
Announcing the dates of the mass action at a rally in Harare last Sunday, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said a critical mass of people was needed to make an impact on the regime. He warned the protests would not be a picnic.
“We want to embark on democracy marches in every town and every workplace,” he said. “We must be prepared to be arrested, we must be prepared to make a mark to ensure that we will never again be oppressed.”
In his public messages, Tsvangirai has urged people to “rise up in your millions”.
“Don’t go to work for the whole week. Stand up and be counted. Demonstrate your anger,” he said. “Action must take place everywhere in Zimbabwe. Be peaceful. Be disciplined…Beware of the Zanu PF merchants of anger.”
However, government has warned it will crush the protests. The army and war veterans have threatened to pounce on the MDC.
The police and the army were yesterday mobilising personnel to deal with the protest.
Police spokesman Wayne Bvu-dzijena yesterday said law enforcement agents were ready to deal with the MDC.
“We know from experience what they mean by mass action,” he said. “As a result we have put in place strategies to deal with them.”
But the Zimbabwe Liberators Platform (ZLP), an independent group of ex-combatants, said no one has a right to intimidate anybody with violence.
“Any demonstration by any Zimbabwean or groups of nationals is a constitutional right,” the ZLP said. “No one has a legal or moral authority to take the law into their own hands by using military force to stop a demonstration.”
Nyathi said the MDC was geared for action regardless of the threats.
“We will not be deterred by the police or any other partisan group. If soldiers decide to be partisan that will be their problem but we will not be deterred,” he said.
“If government out of fear of its own citizens throngs security forces into the streets that will be a massive defeat for them and a victory for democracy.”
Crisis in Zimbabwe chairman Brian Kagoro said although government appears prepared to combat the MDC, its capacity to deal with an angry and restless population could be strained.
“This regime has spent the last three years practising anti-riot drills but it has less than 200 000 security forces. As a result its capacity might be stretched.”
But Kagoro expressed a widespread concern that despite their determination, the MDC might not be able to achieve the critical mass it talks about. “People look ready to show defiance but I’m not sure they are prepared for direct confrontation,” he said.
Observers are agreed the mass action will represent a key test of the opposition’s strength. Having won the political initiative after a stayaway and by-election victories in March, it remains to be seen whether the MDC can confront a regime committed to using brute force to suppress democratic protest.