RIOT police remain camped around the MDC-T’s Harvest House headquarters in Harare, betraying the government’s nervousness about the opposition party’s plans to stage nationwide demonstrations to protest the country’s failing economy.
Earlier this month, the MDC-T said truncheon-wielding police officers decked out in anti-riot gear had camped around the party’s head office in central Harare with no word as to their mission.
The deployment followed an announcement by the opposition party that it was planning nationwide protests which would be fronted by its leader and former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
No dates have been revealed for the protests but the government has since warned that the country’s unapologetically pro-Zanu-PF security services would be ready to crush them.
The cops have maintained the siege since, ignoring demands by the MDC-T that they leave.
Party spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said they would not be intimidated by the show of force adding preparations for the protests were at an advanced stage.
“We are not going to be asking for a police clearance, we will proceed. Police are advised not to defy citizens’ rights, given to them by the Constitution,” Mwonzora told South Africa’s Mail and Guardian.
“As the official opposition in this country we are duty-bound to make sure we keep the government on its toes. We are going to continue regardless of what police will do.”
The opposition party, hammered in last year’s elections which it claims were fraudulent, says Zimbabweans are continuing to suffer in a struggling economy as companies close every week adding hundreds to the country’s 80-plus percent unemployment stats.
The administration’s ZimAsset economic blueprint is yet to make an impact due to the lack of funding and opposition parties also point out that Zanu-PF has delivered precious little, if any, of the two million new jobs Mugabe promised while campaigning last year.
However critics say Tsvangirai is trying to use the economic challenges to regain relevance as a major political force in the country after being weakened by last year’s election defeat, allegations about his messy private life as well as the MDC-T’s latest split.
The former premier rejected calls to resign by disgruntled senior party leaders who have since left to form a separate party under the leadership of secretary general Tendai Biti and former energy minister Elton Mangoma.
“Tsvangirai’s call for these demos is not necessarily for the people of Zimbabwe but for himself to spruce up his battered image or to prove a point that he is still the most popular opposition leader in the country,” said political analyst Blessing Vava.
“The demonstrations are likely going to be dealt with brute force, and I don’t think the MDC has the capacity to mobilise many people to join these demonstrations.”
Zanu-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo also said there was no need for the demonstrations.
Gumbo said the government was working to address the country’s economic problems, citing recent mega-deals signed with China and Russia.
“President Mugabe and Zanu-PF are engaged in addressing challenges affecting the economy through the implementation of its economic blueprint, ZimAsset,” Gumbo told the Mail and Guardian.
“The president recently signed mega-deals with China, just last week we had the Russians. They will be opening a new (platinum) mine which will create several jobs for locals. There is no need for the chaos from the Tsvangirai camp.
“As Zanu-PF we are not just sitting. We are doing something about the economy, yet the MDC wants to burn it. All our plans for the economy and country are contained in the ZimAsset document.”