ZIMBABWE has turned the corner, or has it? The decision by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to ban an opposition “feedback rally” that was set to be addressed by MDC Alliance leader and losing presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa stinks to high heaven.
This, given Mnangagwa has not only been preaching peace, but in the run-up to the July 30 election campaigned on the promise to open up the democratic space, is mind-boggling.
Mnangagwa seemed to have been keeping his word, allowing opposition parties access to all parts of the country including those that, for decades, were viewed as “no-go areas”.
Chamisa was allowed to campaign unmolested, but the latest move by Mnangagwa’s administration to ban the opposition leader’s rally in Kwekwe set for this weekend on flimsy reasons that there was a health scare far away in the Midlands capital, does not fly.
No doubt that this is vintage Mnangagwa under pressure from the ruling Zanu PF party hawks, smarting from a near fatal election that the opposition maintains it won.
Mnangagwa just managed to scrap through with a revised 50,67% and needed a Constitutional Court confirmation to ascend to power after Chamisa had lodged a petition demanding that his “victory” be declared void.
Reality probably has sunk on Mnangagwa that continued liberalisation of the political playfield could signal the death knell on his former liberation movement beset by internal contradictions in the aftermath of the dramatic events of November last year and surging national support for the opposition that almost swept Zanu PF out of power.
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Chamisa and any other citizen, for that matter, must be allowed the democratic space guaranteed by the Constitution. The opening up of the democratic space is one of many promises Mnangagwa has publicly made and re-affirmed at his inauguration last week.
Clearly, Chamisa has a right to consult his supporters given the manner in which he “lost” the elections. Having officially polled over two million votes, 44,3% of those cast, surely these Zimbabweans who believe in him need a chance with their preferred leader to introspect and construct a way forward.
We believe Mnangagwa has an obligation to stop his hounds from creating unnecessary bottlenecks for the opposition. That the new administration has characterised itself as the Second Republic should not only be in rhetoric, but in deed as well.
The banning of the first opposition rally in the aftermath of the elections creates an eerie feeling among citizens, a déjà vu moment that Zimbabwe could be heading back to the dark past that all citizens seek to break from. Mnangagwa should be the last person to allow such conduct. He needs credibility than anything else if his rickety kite is to fly.
The world is watching and the majority of our citizens are watching. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The coming weeks will be critical. There is no doubt that Mnangagwa can do well in his efforts to turn around the country in the shortest possible period with a good team and fair-minded advisers. The next few weeks will be a sink or swim affair for the new regime.