OPPOSITION leader Morgan Tsvangirai has set himself formidable targets that could determine his political future in the coming months.
Tsvangirai, re-elected leader of a faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on Sun
day, raised the stakes by calling for mass protests against President Robert Mugabe’s regime. This could have a bearing on his and Zimbabwe’s future.
Political analysts were however quick to warn that Tsvangirai’s political reputation would be on the line if the mass action threats were not carried out. Buoyed by a bumper 15 000 crowd at his faction’s congress last weekend, Tsvangirai threatened to roll out mass protests, promising “to lead from the front and to use all available resources and will-power to see off the tyranny in Zimbabwe today”.
He said there was no need any more to wait for miracles since people were in charge of their destiny.
“From today, fellow Zimbabweans, kindly save a penny and stock up where possible. A storm is upon the horizon,” Tsvangirai said in his acceptance speech.
Government has in the past responded to peaceful demonstrations and street protests by unleashing riot police, resulting in violent clashes, destruction of property and arrests but Tsvangirai urged people not to be cowed by Mugabe’s tactics.
“The regime has targeted our private space,” Tsvangirai said. “The aim is to clear any thoughts of resistance through fear.”
He said unless action was taken “we shall perish with an illusion that this can’t happen in Zimbabwe. This illusion leads many to wait for a natural turn of events, to wait for divine intervention…that a miracle shall dawn on us”, he said.
“Let me say, fellow Zimbabwean, we risk wasting away if we follow that belief. We are our own liberators. Merely assuming an early end of a dictator can be wishful thinking. These are acts of self-deception. You may have as many wish lists as possible, the bottom line is that we must rise and confront what is before us.”
Political commentator Eldred Masunungure said the MDC did not have the capacity to convince people to engage in street protests and confrontational marches.
“To say we will engage in confrontational street protests would be a mistaken understanding of what Zimbabweans are prepared to offer as resistance,” Masunungure said. “People lack that culture of street protest and confrontation but are more used to withdrawing, making calls for a stay-away a more effective option.”
However, National Constitutional Assembly chairman, Lovemore Madhuku, said the MDC would have to join hands with civic organisations in their call for the protests.
“They cannot do it on their own,” Madhuku said. “They would have to join hands with other civic organisations and I am sure they will bring a big number into the streets in protest.”