The party has, over the past 19 years, built its politics on uncalled-for street protests that often result in violence and destruction of property. They have used them, particularly towards key elections, not to press for resolution of any plausible grievances, but to seek attention at home and abroad and as some kind of unorthodox campaign strategy.
Now with elections looming, elections that the alliance is certain to lose against a rejuvenated Zanu-PF, Messrs Nelson Chamisa, Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube are resorting to incendiary rhetoric to provoke the Government into acting in a way that could create headlines and gains them some sympathy. We are sure they will not get what they want.
At the weekend, Mr Biti, speaking on behalf of the alliance, demanded that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) includes the opposition in processes around printing of ballot papers for the July 30 harmonised elections. He said the alliance also wanted copies of the voters’ roll and a second inspection of the same register despite the fact that Zec conducted the process between the 19th to the 29th of May. Earlier, Mr Chamisa had said his party would shut down Harare. He also demanded “fair” coverage by the publicly owned media and so on. If their demands are not met, he declared, there will be no elections on July 30.
We support freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and the planned protest falls under these freedoms. However, MDCs have a bad record in that regard. Also, a peaceful protest does not shut down a city so we are uncertain if the alliance has good intentions.
We are dismayed by their stance at this time when the country has experienced a period of real calm and political tolerance from November last year. We are also unhappy that Mr Chamisa and his partners look out to spoil the lead-up to elections, the elections themselves and their outcome. However, we are not too surprised by their tactics given that the opposition has resorted to them before.
Why they are so desperate is easy to know. The alliance does not have a manifesto, less than two months before the elections. It does not have a full complement of candidates for the parliamentary elections as aspirants fight. The alliance itself has all but collapsed as the MDC-T rank and file is not prepared to accommodate persons from other smaller members of the coalition whom they dismiss as weak candidates. In addition, the coalition appears to lack resources to mount a strong campaign, particularly with Zanu-PF’s well oiled machinery that is slowly and surely getting into gear with a massive blitz arguably unseen in history. MDC-T, the lead party in the coalition, is involved in a legal battle with its former deputy president, Dr Thokozani Khupe, over the ownership of the party name and symbols.
As Mr Chamisa gropes in the dark, Zanu-PF already has a manifesto, has a full line-up of candidates, has worked hard since November to revive the economy and is now on the ground campaigning, attracting the masses.
By and large, the MDC Alliance, collectively and severally, is not ready for the elections, which is why they are resorting to what could turn out to be destructive politics.
However, Mr Chamisa and company must be told that their demands are illegitimate and, if authorities entertain them, are in violation of the law. Zec is a constitutional body that must not be subject to direction from anyone in discharging its election management mandate. Therefore, Mr Chamisa and his alliance must have no role in the printing of ballot papers. As to his complaint over what he deems as unfair coverage by the public media, we are really surprised because the media outlets concerned are doing what they had never done before, giving him acres of space to outline his vision, albeit, showing his unworthiness to govern in the process. Also, and this is very important, while the public media are aware of the need to be fairer in their reportage and are already doing that, Section 61 (4) (a) of the national Constitution does not permit editorial interference by outsiders. The responsibility to peg and package stories is for editors and their teams, not for political parties.
Zanu-PF and police made their positions clear on Sunday; the former attacking Mr Chamisa and his colleagues over the protest call and calling for peace; the latter warning it would enforce the law.
Ruling party Secretary for Information and Acting Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services Publicity Cde Simon Khaya Moyo said:
“The revolutionary party learnt with utter dismay the conduct and threat utterances by MDC- T leader, Nelson Chamisa and his alliance partners threatening to shut down Harare and stop elections set for July 30 should Zec fail to accede to their demands of electoral reforms.
“In fact the claims being made by Chamisa and crew are bare and not ground on the position of the law. What comes out clear is that the MDC-T is a violent and retrogressive party whose existence thrives on chaos and suffering of the people hence the utterances cannot come as a surprise. These utterances are unfortunate, reckless, extremely irresponsible and uncalled for.”
We are together with the ruling party and Government in urging law-abiding citizens to ignore the protest call and go about their legitimate businesses.
Our people must refuse to be used by Mr Chamisa and his allies who have accurately foreseen their defeat on July 30 but want to create an incident.