MDC stages Harare protest as capital hosts Africa conference; party says anti-govt demo for all Zimbabweans

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By Leopold Munhende

THE opposition MDC party will this Thursday proceed with its planned Harare demonstration at the same time the capital is hosting an Africa ICT convention attended government ministers and hundreds of delegates.

Some 31 African countries are represented at two-day conference which was opened by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday.

The MDC demonstration, the party’s first since spontaneous protests of August 1 which resulted in the killing of some six civilians, will be a test for the Mnangagwa administration which has had to set up a commission to investigate the deaths.

Party leader Nelson Chamisa told international media that the demonstration would call for a “transitional authority” to “move the country forward”.

We need a collective approach … the people voted and that has to be respected,” he was reported as saying.

The MDC has refused to accept President Mnangagwa’s election on July 30, accusing the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) of manipulating results in his favour.

Zimbabwe’s economy has struggled under decades of mismanagement. Although long-time ruler Robert Mugabe was deposed last November, the opposition says Mnangagwa is failing to address the economic problems.

“We have stated that issues related to (this) demonstration (are) coming from the people, they need redress, solutions and they need them now,” said MDC spokesman Jacob Mafume at a press conference Wednesday.

This demonstration is there to express what every Zimbabwean is feeling, you have seen at the rallies the people have asked to be in the streets for them to express how they feel.”

Mafume went on to accuse the ruling Zanu PF party of attempting to cause chaos by bussing militant youths from Uzumba.

The ruling party’s youth league on Tuesday sent a chilling message to the opposition party, bordering on a declaration of war.

“The purpose of this so-called peaceful demonstration is to cause mayhem and despondency in our peaceful Zimbabwe as what happened on August 1, 2018,” said league secretary Pupurai Togarepi.

“We don’t say people should not demonstrate, but do not demonstrate without good reasons. The economic reasons are frivolous.

“After all, they invited sanctions to the country and always want to blackmail the country and deny it of investors.

“In view of the impending demonstration by ‘thugs’ and ‘stupids’, we would like to encourage the general citizenry and the business community to safeguard their property against the merchants of violence who engineered the same on 1 August 2018.”

He added; “On its party, the league will safeguard the property against any harm. Any attempt to destroy property belonging to the party will not be taken lightly.”

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba also warned the opposition party that any damages to property or life will be blamed on the party.

He made it clear that the protestors will not be allowed to take their protest to areas deemed ‘protected’ such as the State House, presidential residence.

But the opposition party dismissed Charamba’s remarks.

“He seems to put the liability on protestors, on us; that is erroneous at law and fact. The police are enjoined at law to protect protestors,” said Mafume in response to Charamba.

The Harare demonstration is set to be centred in the city centre and will see a petition being handed to parliament on the current economic challenges being faced by ordinary Zimbabweans.