POLICE yesterday deployed anti-riot personnel on all roads leading to the MDC-T headquarters, Harvest House, in Harare in anticipation of civil unrest after opposition party leader Morgan Tsvangirai last week threatened to mobilise mass demonstrations against government.
Tsvangirai last Saturday rallied party supporters attending the MDC-T’s 15th anniversary celebrations in Masvingo to brace for a chain of demonstrations against President Robert Mugabe’s “failed governance”.
He said: “As we speak now, people are suffering and we are going back to the old days. The problem is that we are docile. I crave to see workers coming to an all people’s demo, demanding a living wage, employers coming to the streets protesting against company closures, churches, students and young people demanding jobs.”
“As MDC, we are ready to support the people to take to the streets to express themselves. It is a given right in the Constitution to demonstrate, so we have every reason to do that and if we are going to be arrested, we are prepared to fill all the jails in the country.”
Anti-riot police arrived at Harvest House early yesterday morning and ordered street vendors operating near the MDC-T headquarters to disperse.
By midday, police continued milling around the area, closely monitoring the situation.
Although national police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba could not be reached for comment as she was reportedly in a meeting, Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo described Tsvangirai’s threats as ill-advised.
“He doesn’t have relevance now and he is trying so much to be relevant. Who in his right mind can go in the streets? People are too busy for that. We have enough security to deal with him,” Gumbo said.
In the last few weeks, police have descended heavily on two MDC-T-organised demonstrations and arrested several party activists.
The demonstrations, according to the MDC-T, are meant to pressure the Zanu PF government to honour its 2013 election campaign pledge to address the country’s unemployment crisis.
Tsvangirai shot to prominence in the 1990s during his days as secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions when he led a series of crippling ant-government demonstrations, leading to the formation of the MDC in 1999.