MUTARE - Opposistion leader Morgan Tsvangirai is ratcheting up the pressure against President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF, declaring at the weekend that the MDC would soon unroll its long-mooted mass protests to force the government to implement much-needed reforms.
Speaking at a rally in Mutare on Saturday, Tsvangirai urged his supporters to ready themselves for a massive showdown with Zanu PF and the government regarding the lack of movement on key electoral reforms and other critical policies, which he said would only come through the action and continuing sacrifices of Zimbabweans.
He warned the supporters that they should expect a “brutal response as usual” from Mugabe, Zanu PF and the government — given the history and tendency by the ruling party “to do anything to remain in power”.
Tsvangirai has embarked on a countrywide tour to galvanise his support base, amid the worsening political and economic climate in the country — with the economy now often described as being in free fall despite promises by Zanu PF ahead of the disputed 2013 national elections that the party would work to improve people’s lives.
However, since the party’s controversial electoral victory, it has been engaged in deadly factional and succession wars which have resulted in Mugabe firing former Vice President Joice Mujuru and other liberation war pioneers on stunning, but untested claims that they were plotting to oust and kill the nonagenarian.
“The reforms (Zimbabwe needs) will only come with pressure. We want a quick solution to the crisis we face in this country.
“We are declaring that this year is the year of people’s power…but you know that there is a risk. We are going to be arrested, we are going to be abducted like what happened to Itai Dzamara,” Tsvangirai cautioned, while insisting that the protests would be peaceful.
“With the way elections are handled in Zimbabwe and no matter how popular we are, we will never have power (unless key reforms are implemented) even though no party is as popular as MDC.
“The reason we can never transform our popularity into power is because Mugabe is an expert at rigging. We cannot continue to push people to exercise their right to vote that is not respected… Zanu PF is not a democratic party, it is a military party,” Tsvangirai said to thunderous applause from the gathered multitudes.
With Mutare’s Dangamvura-Chikanga constituency going into a by-election on June 10, Tsvangirai urged his supporters to stay away from the “fraudulent process” as per the MDC’s decision to boycott all polls until key reforms are implemented.
“If you have to go and vote at all, then go and spoil the ballots by writing that ‘No elections without reforms’,” Tsvangirai said.
He went on to explain that there were both political and technical challenges that were hampering the holding of free and fair elections in the country.
Politically, Tsvangirai noted, there was still rampant use of intimidation tactics through the deployment of the military and use of coercion.
Technically, there remained many issues with the voters’ roll, the lack of fairness in State media and the non-use of biometric technology during voting processes which created the space for electoral fraud and multiple voting.
“Zimbabwe is in violation of Sadc electoral guidelines and we are also in violation of African Union guidelines,” the MDC president said.
Speaking in Harare a day earlier, Tsvangirai said the political and economic crisis in the country was now way beyond the control of Mugabe, Zanu PF and the government — warning further that this would worsen substantially before a solution could be found.
Addressing workers who turned up for the May Day commemorations organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the former labour leader said the country’s problems emanated from the national political crisis and Zanu PF’s lack of legitimacy.
Tsvangirai accused Mugabe and Zanu PF of “rigging their way to power” in the 2013 elections, resulting in “the crisis of legitimacy and the deep-seated national crisis”.
He said both local and foreign investment which were necessary to extricate the country from the current economic quagmire would not be forthcoming when there was a “91-year-old trying to stay in power for ever”, as well as poor policies by Zanu PF.
“I am surprised he (Mugabe) is not ashamed of chairing the AU and Sadc when all the leaders there qualify to be his grandchildren.
“So what is the way forward? Nobody will come to our rescue in this country. It is our responsibility to liberate ourselves and I want to say before the crisis ends we have to escalate it so that we find a solution to it,” Tsvangirai told the workers.
“We do not need anyone to tell us what our situation is like. Already some of us believe that if we act in solidarity of your efforts we are doing it for the sake of liberating Zimbabweans, so let’s be brave,” he added.