MDC Alliance’s attempt to launch demonstrations in Harare failed spectacularly yesterday after the High Court upheld a prohibition order issued by police on Thursday night.
The opposition party’s leadership, especially its president, Mr Nelson Chamisa, has been making statements lately threatening street protests whose ultimate goal is to overthrow the democratically elected government of President Mnangagwa. Mr Chamisa, who lost the presidential election to President Mnangagwa last year, continues to refuse to accept defeat.
In his view, clearly warped, the Government lacks legitimacy. He says his party wants to use the protests to force the President to agree to a “transitional” mechanism to oversee a fresh round of elections. Yesterday was supposed to be the first in a series of demonstrations to be held in Bulawayo, Mutare, Gweru, Masvingo and other cities next week to advance his agenda.
Many would know that Mr Chamisa thinks the demonstrations would be huge and violent to a magnitude that would unseat the Government. If that happens, he would have achieved what he dismally failed to in elections held last year when he mustered 44,3 percent of the vote to lose to President Mnangagwa who garnered 50.8 percent, with a lead of more than 400 000 votes. Also, Zanu-PF clinched a two thirds majority in Parliament — 179 seats to 88 to the MDC Alliance.
Having lost the presidential election, Mr Chamisa approached the Constitutional Court, but because he presented absolutely no evidence to support his claim of poll rigging on the part of Zanu-PF, the apex court had no trouble dismissing his case.
However, he has been agitating for an illegal, violent reversal of that loss and yesterday was supposed to lay a foundation for that attempt.
Happily for the country and of course for Zanu-PF which clearly won a free and fair election, the police, acting on their credible intelligence, issued an order prohibiting the demonstration in the capital. They said their intelligence had shown that the protests were going to be violent as previous ones have been.
Mr Chamisa went to the High Court challenging the order yesterday morning and lost the case. This meant that any demonstration in Harare was to be illegal and police were empowered to disperse it. They duly did so and arrested some 91 opposition activists who attempted to defy the police and the court by congregating at some places in Harare in an attempt to march.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police informs the nation that following the issuance of a prohibition notice by the regulating authority for Harare Central District, the MDC-Alliance filed an urgent Chamber application with the High Court. The High Court ruled against the holding of the demonstration but the MDC-Alliance activists went on to gather at Africa Unity Square and other parts of Harare central business district in defiance of the court ruling. Some of the youths went on to engage in confrontational acts which include threats, intimidation and disruption of the smooth flow of traffic in the CBD. The police moved in and dispersed the unlawful gathering. In the process, 91 people were arrested for various offences in Chitungwiza, Harare central business district and Harare South,” said police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi.
According to their original plan, MDC Alliance will attempt to demonstrate in Bulawayo on Monday and other cities later in the week. We have no reason to doubt that the reasons why police issued a prohibition order against the Harare leg of the demonstrations are different from what applies in Bulawayo and elsewhere. It is clear that MDC Alliance wants violent protests that they think would lead to a violent change of government. The party has been making statements to that effect and Mr Chamisa reiterated that position yesterday when he addressed the media in Harare after the protests in the capital failed.
“We are clear that this is a long winter of discontent and expression of ourselves. It is not going to be a walk in the park, it is not instant coffee, it is not going to be easy because it is a struggle. It is the people’s struggle. We are going to pursue every avenue, there is not going to be any rest until the people of Zimbabwe achieve a people’s Government. A people’s Government is going to be a creature of a settlement that has to come through comprehensive reforms, through a transition mechanism through an understanding that a roadmap we put on the table is followed,” he said.
That address speaks for itself.
Authorities did well by snuffing out the violence that would have happened in Harare. They must do the same to prevent violence occurring in other towns and cities. Those in opposition ranks who might want to defy the law must be ruthlessly dealt with.
Mr Chamisa must just accept that he lost elections last year and must not attempt to force himself on the people. He must wait for new elections in four years’ time. That is how democracy, which he purports to epitomise, works. If he attempts to gain some cheap heroism, the law will attend to him.