MDC-T supporters yesterday besieged the venue of the ongoing Southern African Development Community (Sadc) summit in Harare, demanding President Robert Mugabe’s resignation.
BY MOSES MATENGA/SILENCE CHARUMBIRA
The protests — which took the usually alert police by surprise — were staged as regional leaders arrived for the summit to address industrialisation and economic transformation.
Mugabe, the host, was accused by the opposition MDC-T supporters of running down the economy and violating human rights.
Police were called in to disperse the protesters who were chanting their party slogans while denouncing the 91-year-old leader for presiding over the collapse of the economy.
The MDC-T youths waved placards demanding the 2,2 million jobs promised by Zanu PF in the run-up to the 2013 election.
They also demanded the immediate release of political activist Itai Dzamara, who has been missing since March 9 after he was allegedly abducted by unknown people from a Harare barbershop.
The protesters also waved placards attacking Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko for his alleged negative remarks about vendors.
Mugabe was accused of reducing Zimbabwe to a nation of vendors because of the spiralling unemployment rate.
Riot police arrived in more than six vehicles and barricaded all roads leading to Meikles Hotel, the venue of the summit, while another truckload was at the MDC-T headquarters, Harvest House.
But most of the protesters had already left the hotel after the brief demonstration.
Meanwhile, MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said party leader Morgan Tsvangirai would press for meetings with some of the regional leaders to brief them about the situation in Zimbabwe.
“Of course, the MDC is going to take advantage of the summit in Harare this week in order to push ahead with our diplomatic offensive,” Gutu said.
“President Morgan Tsvangirai will be paying courtesy calls on the visiting Heads of State and Government in order to fully explain to them the deteriorating political and economic situation in the country.”
The MDC-T said it wanted the Zimbabwe crisis back on the Sadc agenda as the economic deterioration was worsening.
“He (Tsvangirai) will be outlining the reasons why the MDC is calling on the Zimbabwe crisis to be placed on the Sadc agenda,” Gutu said.
“Millions of Zimbabweans are facing an impending food crisis and at the same time, thousands more continue to occupy the streets as vendors because there are no job opportunities.
“He will also express the MDC’s extreme disgust at the recent xenophobic attacks in neighbouring South Africa.”
Several civic society organisations have also threatened to stage peaceful demonstrations and petition Sadc leaders on the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, deteriorating human rights conditions in Zimbabwe and the disappearance of Dzamara.
The four-day Sadc summit kicked off in Harare with the Council of Ministers meeting on Monday.
Heads of State are expected to meet today.
Political analyst Charles Mangongera said the demonstrations by Zimbabweans showed that the people were not happy with Mugabe’s administration and were now seeking Sadc’s intervention.
“Zimbabwean citizens are disgruntled with the situation,” he said.
“There is hopelessness and they think the leaders of Sadc should know what is happening.”
“More importantly, there are issues including that of xenophobia that people, including Zimbabweans, are being exposed to that have to be brought to the attention of the leaders.”
Meanwhile, Zanu PF secretary for youth affairs Pupurai Togarepi has threatened to fight back against the MDC-T for allegedly provoking the ruling party.
Speaking at a Press conference in Harare yesterday, Togarepi claimed MDC-T supporters drove to the Zanu PF headquarters in three trucks and allegedly insulted leaders of the party.
Togarepi alleged such incidents had been happening for a long time.
“If this happens again, I am telling you we are going to hit back and no one should cry foul,” he said.
“Definitely if we are provoked they will have themselves to blame.”
Togarepi said the incident on Monday was meant to drag Zanu PF into a fight calculated to catch the attention of visiting Sadc leaders.
But Gutu refuted the Zanu PF claims that his party was provoking the ruling party.
“Nothing of that sort ever happened. Yesterday (Monday) was a very busy day for MDC Harare province,” he said. “For Togarepi to say our youths hurled insults at their leaders at the offices is a figment of his imagination and it has to be dismissed with the contempt it deserves.
“If anything, it is Zanu PF youths that are violent as clearly evidenced by their savage attacks on Honourable Costa Machingauta, the MP for Budiriro, who was assaulted at Budiriro 4 shops.”
The MDC-T MP ended in hospital after being attacked by suspected Zanu PF activists on Friday.
Mugabe is hosting his second major Sadc summit after he took over the post at the 2014 regional summit held in Victoria Falls.