AS the MDC leader Morgan Tsvangiraiâ€™s convoy arrived at Sakubva Stadium, Mutare, last Saturday, violence broke out and marred the opposition partyâ€™s biggest rally since its inception in September 1999.
The 25 000-seater stadium was full to the brim and the supporters were in a jovial mood awaiting Tsvangirai to launch the partyâ€™s March 29 presidential, legislative and council elections campaign.
The MDC leader was also to unveil the partyâ€™s manifesto before the excited supporters.However, for close to 10 minutes after Tsvangiraiâ€™s midday arrival, sporadic violence became the order of the day.
The fracas erupted soon after Tsvangirai arrived at the venue when MDC members from Harare went into a â€œMexican waveâ€ demanding party T-shirts.
â€œT-shirts, T-shirts, Harare,â€ chanted the disgruntled Harare delegates much to the dismay of the partyâ€™s organising secretary, Elias Mudzuri, who desperately tried to calm the mob by promising to them the party regalia.
Hell broke loose momentarily when the supporters started throwing the partyâ€™s red cards onto the pitch in disgruntlement.
The partyâ€™s youth in charge of security moved in and assaulted a number of supporters in the glare of Tsvangirai who later condemned the violence.
â€œThe youth are a misfit to our agenda. We condemn the violence unreservedly,â€ Tsvangirai said.
Among those assaulted was a Zimbabwean journalist working for an international television network.
But once the commotion died down, it was back to the dayâ€™s business with MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti vowing that never in history has a sitting government won an election in a hyperinflationary environment like that of Zimbabwe.
â€œThere is no government in this world which can win an election when inflation is over 100 000%, 80% unemployment and three million of its people living abroad,â€ Biti said. â€œMugabe you cannot and you will not do the impossible. Victory is certain for us.â€
He said the party election campaign launch was meant to make a statement to Mugabe that the MDC would win the elections given the political, economic and social crisis facing the nation.
Biti said millions of Zimbabweans were looking forward to change in government leadership and the MDC was prepared to fulfill the aspirations of the people.
â€œThe MDC represents the idea of change. We have travelled a long way . . . The face of our struggle is Morgan Tsvangirai,â€Â Biti said.
â€œThe expression of our struggle is Morgan Tsvangirai. This is a peopleâ€™s project to remove Zimbabweans from hunhapwa hwababaChatunga (Mugabeâ€™s enslavement).â€Â Â
Tsvangirai, dressed in a navy blue pin-stripe suit and matching shirt, told the multitude of his supporters that March 29 should herald an era of change in the country.
He did not speak on the entry of former Finance minister Simba Makoni in the presidential race, given reports that the two wanted to form an alliance.
MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said Tsvangirai avoided speaking on Makoni because he was not an issue.
He ruled out chances of Tsvangirai stepping down to back Makoniâ€™s candidacy.
â€œA whole party cannot join an individual. Makoni is an individual not a party.
He is not just an ordinary individual, but one who has embraced Zanu PF,â€ Chamisa said. â€œMixing donkeys and cattle does not make the cattle herd bigger.â€
Unveiling the MDC manifesto, Tsvangirai said if his party is elected into power it would pursue a social democratic programme to resolve the countryâ€™s problems.
â€œBe part of this movement whose proud legacy is that it is the face of change in the country,â€ Tsvangirai told his supporters. â€œWe remain the legitimate drivers of the democratisation of this country.â€
The MDC leader said Zanu PF had no programme to extricate the country from the current problems.
â€œThe dictatorship has a programme, or course,â€ he said. â€œPoverty, exile, starvation, disease â€” that has been the programme of the dictatorship for the past five years.â€
Tsvangirai said his lack of a degreed education would not preclude him from being a successful leader as parroted by the government.
â€œWell, one successful political leader worked as a waiter in a restaurant. He said that politics is a lot like being a waiter â€” you listen to the people â€” and you bring them what they want.
That is not a bad definition of democracy,â€ he said.
Â As a result of listening to the people, the MDC came up with a manifesto for the 2008 elections premised on the need for a new constitution, he said.
Tsvangirai said his government would have a new people-driven constitution two years after assuming power.
He said the country had an enclave economy that was uneven, unequal and virtually dead.
â€œThe challenge for the MDC is to craft an alternative human-centred auto-centric economic programme that is based on domestic demands, use of local resources, domestic savings and people-based regional integration,â€ Tsvangirai said.
The economic programme would be spearheaded by the creation of the Zimbabwe Economic Development Council under the MDCâ€™s Restart strategy.
â€œRestart still remains our fundamental economic recovery vehicle whose key tenet is a strong social democratic state,â€ Tsvangirai said.
He added the MDC would trade centralised government for local autonomy and devolution.
Tsvangirai said his government would need at least US$10 billion to address the current problems in the country and was hopeful that the East and the West would come to its aid.
He said his government would establish a fund to assist victims of Gukurahundi and Operation Murambatsvina to rebuild their homes and businesses that were destroyed by the government in 2005.
â€œWe cannot restore the life that was lost during the Gukurahundi. But we can rebuild the devastated communities,â€ Tsvangirai said.
â€œWe can build roads and schools and make loans to people to establish income generating projects.
We can also create special economic zones, exempt from taxation during the period of rebuilding.â€
On the contentious land reform programme, the MDC said it would carry out an audit to establish the physical and legal status of all holdings.
The party, Tsvangirai said, would implement and coordinate a participatory and planned resettlement programme based on the principle of need and ability.
The MDC would design and define the minimum and maximum land holdings per region and also enact laws that guarantee ownership of one household per one land holding.
Tsvangirai also said his government would change foreign policy, and put in place robust health and education policies, among others.