Tsvangirai flexes political muscle

MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday showed he still commands massive urban support when he led thousands of party supporters in an anti-government protest march in Harare yesterday.

By Elias Mambo

Thousands of supporters gathered at the open space opposite Harare Agricultural Show Grounds stretching to the Harare Magistrates Courts commonly known as ‘Freedom Square’ by as early as 8am, to protest against economic collpase, poverty, corruption and human rights abuses by President Robert Mugabe’s government.

The protesters waved placards questioning the government over the US$15 billion diamond revenue, which Mugabe said could not be accounted for. They also demanded government to unveil the 2,2 million jobs promised by Zanu PF in its 2013 election manifesto, which informed the government’s ambitious economic blueprint ZimAsset.

Demonstrators also wanted to know the whereabouts of missing journalist-cum-politician Itai Dzamara, while also calling on Mugabe to step down.

Some of the placards read “old clueless Mugabe must go”, “Basa rangu riripi (where is my job)”, “Zvakwana, Enough, Sokwanela, Taneta” and “Why beat up our war veterans?”

With hordes of police officers in riot gear closely watching proceedings, Tsvangirai, also former prime minister, and his wife Elizabeth joined the protesters at 10am and led the protest from “Freedom Square” to the intersection of Robert Mugabe Avenue and Kaguvi Street, where he jumped into a car.

Singing, ululating, dancing and chanting slogans, the protestors marched to Africa Unity Square where they were addressed by Tsvangirai, who told them to prepare for more demonstrations.

“This is the time for President Robert Mugabe to listen to the voice of the people,” Tsvangirai said. “We are going to hold such demonstrations in all the cities and towns countrywide as we fight for our rights. We are not afraid to lead in the struggle.”

The protest was held after the High Court overturned a police ban on the demonstration. The police had refused to sanction the demonstration saying it would disturb traffic and human flow. The police had also said most of their members had been deployed for Independence Day celebrations and thus they could not provide adequate security.

Political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said while Tsvangirai must be commended for his brave move, he must broaden the protests to include all oppressed and suffering Zimbabweans across the political divide and society in general.

“Firstly, credit must go to Tsvangirai for his brave move and action. It’s an important step forward. Secondly, he must go beyond partisan mobilisation to lead a national movement which is an expression of the socio-economic reality and lived experiences of millions of poor and suffering Zimbabweans regardless of their political affiliation.

“There are millions of people opposed to the Mugabe regime in this country who may not necessarily belong to MDC-T or any other political party for that matter. So it’s important to broaden the movement and include everyone who wants reform and change.

“Keeping this as a party demonstration may alienate millions who belong to different parties and civic organisations, but want to join and fight for their own emancipation and freedom. Thirdly, there needs to be national strategy, not just based on opposing Mugabe, but also on a solid reform agenda, ideas and possible solutions to the national crisis.”