POLICE yesterday gave the greenlight for the MDC-T’s planned pro-electoral reform demonstration in Harare today, as Zanu PF activists, who had threatened to counter the opposition party’s protest march, backed down under pressure from the law enforcement agents.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
Both Zanu PF national youth commissar Godfrey Tsenengamu and the party’s Harare provincial youth chairperson, Godwin Gomwe said they would now hold their solidarity march for President Emmerson Mnangagwa, tomorrow.
“As Zanu PF youth league, we don’t have a programme for tomorrow (today). Our programme is on Wednesday, where we will start with a march from Robert Mugabe Square,” Tsenengamu said.
“We take note that the MDC-T have their own march tomorrow (today) and constitutionally they have a right to do so no matter their motive, it is their constitutional right. We are giving them a chance as a political party and as the youth leadership, we take heed of the President’s call for tolerance and the observance of peace. Therefore, we will not have a march tomorrow (today) because it might end up in bloody clashes,” he said.
Gomwe claimed that police had advised them to reschedule the march to avoid violent clashes involving supporters of the two parties.
“Our programme is rescheduled for Wednesday. Police have advised us that MDC-T were the ones who booked first, therefore, they were given the preference on the first come, first served basis. We respect that and we respect the law enforcement agents,” he said.
There were fears that supporters from the country’s two main political parties would engage in violent clashes after Zanu PF activists threatened to run their solidarity march at the same time the MDC-T was holding its demonstration.
The MDC-T said it would, as part of its demonstration, petition the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson, Priscilla Chigumba to reform the electoral playing field and level it before next month’s general elections.
In its clearance letter for the MDC-T demonstration, the police ordered that less than five people would be allowed to enter the Zec headquarters to hand over the petition.
“Your notification letter to hold a march on June 5 at Africa Unity Square from 10am to 2:30pm has been noted. The march shall start at Africa Unity Square and then proceed along Jason Moyo [Avenue] to the intersection of Harare Street and Jason Moyo. Less than five people will proceed to hand over a petition at Zimbabwe Electoral Commission,” read part of the police letter signed by officer commanding Harare Central, Chief Superintendent Albert Ncube.
“After handing over the petition, you shall proceed along Harare Street turn right into Samora Machel, turn right onto First Street, turn left into Nelson Mandela and back to Africa Unity Square. Please confine your march to the above-stated venue, route and time outlined. Police will monitor,” he said, adding police could invoke provisions of section 29 of the Public Order and Security Act (Chapter 11:17) if the MDC-T activists violated the conditions.
Addressing journalists in Harare yesterday, MDC-T organising secretary Amos Chibaya said they were planning to petition both Zec and Mnangagwa on their demand for electoral reforms.
“Tomorrow, we are going ahead with our peaceful demonstration, it’s a free and fair election peace march,” he said.
Chibaya said party leader and MDC Alliance presidential candidate, Nelson Chamisa will address the protestors at Africa Unity Square in the city centre.
“This is a crucial time, we must be vigilant as we demand an environment for credible elections in Zimbabwe. The ballot paper remains a serious threat to Zimbabwe’s democracy and as long as the paper has not been scrutinised and the printing of the ballot paper remains shrouded in secrecy, then there cannot be an election.
“As long as the voters’ roll is not audited by credible and independent external auditor, there cannot be an election. As long as the securocrats remain entrenched in the Zec system and interfere with our democratic right to choose a leader that we want and transfer power to the winning candidate then Zimbabwe cannot have elections,” he added.
The Mkoba legislator said, as stakeholders, the MDC-T was entitled to participate in the national logistics committee that runs elections to avoid producing a contested outcome.
Chibaya claimed his party had received reports that some Zanu PF supporters were planning to infiltrate their march and cause chaos.
“We are aware that Zanu PF is organising its overzealous supporters to infiltrate and cause havoc and paint us in bad picture, we will not have that. We encourage the people of Zimbabwe to exercise restraint in the face of provocation. We encourage the participants not to participate in any act of violence, looting or damage,” he said.
In the past, police were often been accused of blocking opposition parties’ demonstrations while giving priority to the ruling party events.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) boss, Obert Masaraure said: “There was an element of mischief on the part of Zanu PF, as they were deliberately attempting to deny members of the opposition their freedoms as guaranteed by the Constitution.
“The level of mischief is clear testimony that the gospel of free and fair elections is a lie being sold to mislead the international community. The contents of the MDC-T petition will obviously pre-empt the sham elections we are destined to hold. Zanu PF doesn’t want the petition to gain attention from international media for fear of censorship.”
Political analyst Vivid Gwede said Zanu PF had once again shown its true colours, which is that of automatic and aggressive rejection of any attempts by the opposition to open the electoral space.
“There is no doubt that there are pending electoral reforms such as transparency with ballot papers, fair coverage of political parties by the state media and public withdrawal of statements of intimidation by some government officials,” he said.
“Nothing should be read into the cancellation of a potentially violent countermarch by Zanu PF because their intentions have been exposed which are that they do not want a fair election. In fact, on Wednesday Zanu PF will march to this effect that they are not ready to open the democratic space beyond rhetoric,” he added saying had they gone ahead with the countermarch they would have embarrassed themselves as instigators of violence.
Another analyst Dewa Mavhinga said it is not enough for the ruling Zanu PF party just to talk about free and fair elections without taking solid measures to guarantee free polls.
“To guarantee such elections means making the necessary changes to laws and ensuring the police act impartiality to prevent violence and to investigate incidents of violence when they occur.”