BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
The apparent momentum gained by the Nelson Chamisa led Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) ahead of the crucial March 26 by-elections has sent some Zanu PF officials into panic mode amid alleged plots to disrupt the opposition party’s official launch of its campaigns for the polls today.
Police have been accused of throwing spanners into the eagerly awaited CCC star rally in Harare’s Highfield high-density suburb after they set tough conditions for the event.
Scores of the opposition party’s activists have also been arrested by police for mobilising for the rally.
Audio recordings of Zanu PF officials allegedly plotting to work with law enforcement agents to sabotage the gathering have also gone viral on various social media platforms.
The tension heightened yesterday when Zanu PF supporters allegedly blocked a rally by former Finance minister Tendai Biti, who is seeking to retain his Harare East constituency after his controversial recall from Parliament.
“Zanu PF thugs in Harare East reportedly under the instruction of (Zanu PF candidate) Mavis Gumbo have pitched tents at a venue CCC booked for a constituency rally today,” CCC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere said yesterday.
“They have since attacked our youths.
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“Police refused to act.”
Gumbo was not reachable for comment last night.
CCC activists have allegedly been arrested and beaten for wearing yellow regalia, including holding car rallies that police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi on Friday said were illegal.
Police set a number of strict conditions for the Highfield rally including banning processions to the venue, toyi-toying, chanting slogans and transporting of supporters to the venue — all ingredients of a successful rally.
Police also said the CCC must observe Covid-19 regulations, which outlaw large gatherings of above 100 people.
Last week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa launched the Zanu PF’s by-election campaign where Zupco buses were commandeered to ferry thousands of supporters from across the country to an Epworth rally.
On Friday, CCC through lawyer Obey Shava wrote to the police dismissing the strict conditions as an illegality and demanded a waiver.
“We have instructed our lawyers to approach the courts for urgent relief to secure our constitutional rights,” Mahere told The Standard yesterday.
“The constitution is supreme so we are confident our rally will proceed without impediment.
“We have mobilised our supporters to attend their masses. The citizens are fired up and ready to go.”
In the letter, Shava argued that the police measures were unconstitutional and selective as they had not been applied to Zanu PF and other political parties such as Douglas Mwonzora’s MDC-T.
“We are advised that the conditions set in your letter are unconstitutional for the following reasons: to the extent that they prohibit members of our clients from chanting slogans in support of their political party,” he wrote.
“Such a prohibition abrogates their right to freedom of assembly and association as provided for in terms of section 58 of the constitution.
“To the extent that aforementioned conditions have not been placed upon other political parties, in particular, Zanu PF and MDC-T which held their own rallies recently, such conditions violate the pre-emptory right to equality before the law and right to equal protection and benefit of the law as enshrined under Section 56 of the constitution.”
CCC filed an urgent High Court application last night challenging the police order.
Mahere said Zanu PF feared that Chamisa’s rally would dwarf the ruling party’s rally addressed by Mnangagwa last week. Mnangagwa is in Marondera today for another star rally in that province.
Zanu PF spokesperson Chris Mutsvangwa yesterday said the ruling party was not worried about CCC and said rallies were not a confirmation of winning the by-elections.
“A rally attendance is not a voting booth. A rally in a particular place is definitely not an arbiter of total national power dispensation,” Mutsvangwa told The Standard.
“What would be of concern is the deep chasm of mistrust and the questionable loyalty of the MDC- Chamisa Chete Chete personalised political outfit to the Zimbabwe State.
“Chamisa Chete Chete carries a heavy albatross as a party ready to employ violence as an instrument of regime change, that much coveted goal of London and Washington.”
A couple of months ago, Zanu PF had written off the Chamisa-led formation after Douglas Mwonzora was controversially allowed to take over control of the MDC Alliance.
This forced the Chamisa group to rebrand into CCC and today’s rally would be the first major public gathering for the formation.