MDC pro-senate leader Arthur Mutambara is struggling to make an impact on the ground with crowds attending his rallies shrinking with each appearance, i
n direct contrast to his rival, Morgan Tsvangirai’s burgeoning gatherings.
Mutambara’s rally two weeks ago in Chitungwiza and Tsvangirai’s two meetings in Gweru and Masvingo last weekend clearly show that Mutambara has a mountain to climb to tilt the scales in his favour.
The Mutambara rally in Chitungwiza where his lieutenant Job Sikhala used to enjoy overwhelming support was a test case, attracting less than 1 200 people, many of them children.
His inaugural rally in Bulawayo, his faction’s supposed stronghold, was also poorly attended with only 1 500 people turning up. The low turnouts contrasted with Tsvangirai who attracted 17 000 supporters in Gweru and 12 000 in Masvingo during the weekend rallies which marked the first public appearance of the newly-elected leadership team in the Tsvangirai faction.
However, the Mutambara faction’s secretary for Information and Publicity, Morgan Changamire, defended his faction’s performance.
“The MDC President, Professor Arthur Mutambara, addressed an ecstatic and jubilant crowd of more than 5 000 people at Huruyadzo shopping centre in Chitungwiza,” Changamire said in a statement last week.
The Tsvangirai faction spokesman, Nelson Chamisa, described the huge turnout at their rallies as a bold statement giving the new leadership a mandate to lead the party.
“Thousands of MDC supporters continue to make a bold statement against the dictatorship,” Chamisa said. “They turned up in large numbers at MDC rallies held in Gweru and Masvingo over the weekend to meet their new leadership and to chart the way forward. In Gweru on Saturday, 17 000 MDC members thronged Mkoba stadium while another 12 000-strong crowd turned up for a morning rally held at Mamutse stadium in Masvingo the following day.”
Chamisa said Tsvangirai told the crowds that he was not worried by the dictatorship’s incessant threats to kill him if he led people in a sustained programme of democratic resistance to achieve a new and democratic society.
He said Tsvangirai reiterated the pledge he made at congress to lead from the front after realising that elections alone without a parallel political programme would not bring a new Zimbabwe.
Mutambara on the other hand told his supporters that if the opposition party failed to remove Zanu PF from power through democratic means, it would resort to demonstrations and mass stayaways.
“We are not afraid to use demonstrations and mass stayaways to remove the government. We will not rule out using violence because this is still our option,” he said in Chitungwiza.
Mutambara told his supporters that he had the brains to turn around the country’s fortunes if he gets into power.
Calls for mass protests have been met with threats from government officials, the latest being from President Mugabe at Winston Changara’s funeral at the National Heroes Acre last Friday.
Vice-President Joseph Msika dismissed Tsvangirai’s calls as empty talk meant to cause mayhem in Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai is scheduled to hold another rally on Sunday at White City Stadium in Bulawayo.