THE Constitution of Zimbabwe guarantees any group of citizens the right to protest, demonstrate or petition. It is against this backdrop that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is going to exercise that right on August 16.
It is in light of that provision that MDC leader Nelson Chamisa recently said the party will take to the streets on August 16 after notifying the police as provided for in the law. What is surprising, however, is the response of the ruling Zanu PF party’s youth wing which has vowed to fight the demonstrators.
The Zanu PF youths cannot take upon themselves the responsibility of confronting “any thuggery” and “with equal measure” because that is not their constitutional obligation. There are arms of the State tasked with that responsibility and they are well able to do that. Zanu PF is not the government, and neither is its youth league an arm of the State.
It is surprising that Pupurai Togarepi would accuse the MDC of wanting to tear the Constitution, when the governance charter allows them that right to demonstrate. What is not surprising is that the Zanu PF youth is keen to bar the MDC from exercising its constitutional right to demonstrate.
Togarepi’s inflammatory remarks actually point to the potential source of violence. Why are the Zanu PF youths agitating for confrontation? The fact that past demonstrations were hijacked by unknown elements and turned violent does not mean the MDC protests will be violent unless, of course, Zanu PF interferes to make sure they are not peaceful. It is a misnomer to claim that such a demonstration will lead to mayhem. What if it is peaceful?
It is strange that a political party official would get angry at the intention of a rival party to demonstrate. There is no reason why what happens in the MDC should ruffle Togarepi’s feathers. One would like to think of a “Second Republic” in which Zanu PF is not convoluted with the State.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Zanu PF leader, has often boasted about opening up democratic space in his ‘Second Republic’, but it appears Togarepi and his minions did not get the memo.
Togarepi’s reaction is what the West mean when they say Zimbabwe must open up the democratic space. Our democracy is defined by our Constitution and the willingness of Zanu PF youths to suppress individuals from exercising their rights, for whatever reason, must be a cause for concern to all right-thinking people.