Police u-turn on MDC anniversary celebrations, Chamisa ‘inauguration’

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By Staff Reporter

POLICE on Thursday reversed their decision to allow MDC to hold its 19th anniversary celebrations Saturday citing an earlier ban on public gatherings in attempts to control a cholera outbreak which government has declared a state of emergency.

The MDC had also planned to “inaugurate” its leader Nelson Chamisa as the “People’s President” as they insist the 40-year-old losing presidential candidate in the just ended elections was robbed of his victory.

The event had been set for Harare’s Gwanzura Stadium.

In a letter to the main opposition, Officer Commanding Harare South Police District, Chief Superintendent Winston Muzah said police were not ready to take chances while the health catastrophe wreaked havoc.

“As you are aware that there is a cholera outbreak in Harare. The disease is very contagious and has taken a number of lives leaving several others hospitalised,” Muzah said.

“As a result of the outbreak, the government has declared it a state of emergency hence no public gatherings are allowed.

“Considering the magnitude of people that will be flocking from all over Zimbabwe on your anniversary celebration day, it is not advisable for thousands of people to gather in an area where there is an outbreak of a contagious disease.

“Meanwhile the intended celebration is not sanctioned.”

The police action elicited a strong reaction from the MDC which accuses the Zanu PF led government of deliberately trying to block Chamisa’s rallies while stifling citizens’ freedoms.

Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume told Thursday that police were deliberately picking on MDC gatherings while allowing many others to proceed free of any interruption.

“What surprises us is that gathering in relation to these epidemics is only defined as a gathering where the MDC is meeting. All other gatherings, soccer matches have been allowed to go on,” Mafume said.

“…People have been allowed to come into town as usual and there is no bigger gathering than people gathering in the city (centre) of Harare and therefore, we can only conclude that the government is using its own failures to provide emergency relief, water, an environment which allows people to live safely in Harare.

“It’s taking advantage of its own failures to restrict the freedoms of our people.”

Mafume said police were trying to block a repeat of the scenes that saw Chamisa Wednesday visit the affected Harare suburbs where ordinary residents gave him a tumultuous reception while urging him to fight on.

The MDC spokesperson blamed government failures for the catastrophe that is threatening to engulf the entire country saying that Zanu PF encouraged illegal settlements which have been linked to the crisis.

He said the MDC leadership was engaged in “extensive consultations” to decide on what to do next after their plans were thrown into disarray.