MDC-T, Zanu PF clash over rally venues

A potentially violent showdown looms between Zanu PF and MDC-T on Saturday as the bitter political rivals have clashed over venues for their rallies.

The two parties intend to hold rallies around the Harare Showgrounds, barely 500 metres away from each other, a dreadfully volatile prospect.

The MDC-T, whose application for police clearance to hold the rally at Glamis Arena, an open area outside the showgrounds, was refused, said on Thursday they would proceed with their meeting because the police were being unfair to turn down their application.

The police wrote to the MDC-T advising them the venue had already been booked for a Zanu PF rally, just as they had responded to previous MDC-T applications for permission to hold rallies at other venues in Harare.

The MDC-T said they viewed the police decision as partisan and had therefore decided to defy the order, setting the stage for a potentially violent confrontation pitting supporters of the MDC-T on one hand and Zanu PF supporters and the police on the other.

MDC-T officials claimed police had on three previous occasions barred them from holding their rally in Harare claiming the proposed venue (Zimbabwe Grounds) was booked by Zanu PF for the whole year.

The Morgan Tsvangirai-led party cancelled the March 13 rally and moved it to March 19 (Saturday) at the Glamis Arena, but police again told them Zanu PF had booked the venue.

Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo on Thursday confirmed his party had booked the venue for Saturday.

In letters responding to the MDC-T’s notice of intention to hold a rally, firstly at the Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield, the Officer Commanding Police Harare South District, Alex Chagwedera, turned down the applications saying the venues were already booked.

Chagwedera said in one of the letters:

“While this office has no objection to the holding of your intended political rally, it is regretted that the venue you intend to use is already booked by some other players for the 19th and 20th of March. An alternative venue may perhaps solve the problem.”

Officer Commanding Police Harare Central District Garikai Gwangwava in another response to the MDC-T request to use Glamis Arena dated March 14 wrote:

“My office regrets to advise you that your intended place of rally’s proximity and timings coincide with that of Zanu PF which is also holding a rally on the same date at the open space between the Rainbow Towers and Interpol Offices, which is less than 500 metres from your intended venue.

“Since we will be covering that event, we will not be in a position to cover your event at the very same time and you are advised to organise for another date.”

MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti on Thursday wrote to the police insisting his party’s rally would proceed as planned.

“Pursuant to my letter dated the 14th of March 2011, I wish to confirm that we are proceeding with our Peace Rally on Saturday the 19th of March 2011. I shall appreciate your provision of security as usual,” Biti wrote.

Harare provincial police spokesperson Inspector James Sabau last night said he did not have information on the apparent confusion as he was out of town.

Police national spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena’s phone went unanswered.

MDC-T spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said the rally would go ahead.

“Even if we say we will hold a rally at Harvest House, they will find an excuse and say you can’t because Harvest House is in the same street with the Zanu PF headquarters,” he said.

“There is no law that allows the people’s rights to be trampled upon like this,” he said.

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