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MDC, unions plan to defy state threats over demos

by Staff reporter
15 Jan 2020 at 06:21hrs | Views
DARK clouds are hanging over Zimbabwe once again following the threat by the MDC and labour unions to hold rolling anti-government protests around the country despite the State's stern warning against all forms of public dissent.

This comes as former South African president Thabo Mbeki - who is attempting to broker much-needed talks between Mnangagwa and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa - is expected back in the country anytime soon to continue with his valiant efforts to try and convince the two rivals to end their bickering.

It also comes after Chamisa held talks with his party's restless youths in a closed-door meeting in Harare yesterday - with the MDC subsequently vowing to roll out crippling mass demonstrations in response to the worsening political and economic.situation in the country.

This happened barely 24 hours after the government warned ominously that it would unleash security forces if need be to crush the planned marches - setting the stage once again for potentially bloody clashes between jittery authorities and protesters.

"The people of Zimbabwe will not be scared away from our democratic and constitutional rights to petition the government.

"Constitutional rights by their very nature are sacred, inalienable and indivisible. In fact, the government must be on high alert to solve the people's problems and not to kill them as they did in August 2018 and January 2019.

"Mnangagwa has taken leave of his senses just as he has retreated from solving the daunting challenges facing the nation by going on leave when the nation is on the precipice," MDC deputy spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka told the Daily News after Chamisa's meeting with his party's youths.

"Everyone is suffering and the regime must brace itself for massive outrage (protests) from the nation. It's the people's constitutional right.

"The people of Zimbabwe don't take kindly to threats from any quarter. Instead of clamping down on the people, the regime must clamp down on inflation, high prices and the massive suffering facing the people.

"We reserve our right as a party to mobilise the people to constitutionally express themselves," Tamborinyoka added.

On their part, following their meeting with Chamisa, the MDC youths also said they would not heed the government's warning.

"No one has the capacity to stop any idea whose time has come and change is one such idea that has come in Zimbabwe.

"No man made of flesh and blood can stop the hope restoration agenda which has since gained traction.

"The State and its apparatus must know that any form of force directed at the citizens will only work to build a more national and formidable resolve to fight for a new and democratic Zimbabwe," a defiant MDC youth assembly chairperson Obey Sithole said.

"It's nonsensical to justify the State's heavy handedness on the pretext of maintaining peace, because the nation is experiencing violence.

"There is violence in people's stomachs, pockets ... in fact all over, and the source of that … is the mis-governance being perpetuated by an illegitimate regime which is clinging onto power.

"For as long as the constitution is the supreme law of this country, no single individual in Zanu-PF or collectively has the right to prescribe to the people of Zimbabwe how they must register their displeasure anytime and anywhere," Sithole added.

This comes after the government warned ominously on Monday that it would ruthlessly crush the mooted mass protests by the opposition that are meant to commemorate the death of people who were slain by security forces during last year's ugly fuel riots.

The warning came as civil servants and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) are also threatening to hold massive demonstrations in response to the worsening economic situation in the country.

In his ominous declaration, Deputy Information minister Energy Mutodi told the Daily News that the government would not only squash the planned MDC protests, but would also not hesitate to employ the shoot-to-kill-policy on violent demonstrators if necessary.

"They (the opposition) are desperate to maintain political relevance among their supporters, having lied to them that they would overthrow the government before the end of last year.

"We will not tolerate anarchy and as such the shoot-to-kill policy that we have authorised against rogue machete-wielding miners will apply to those who participate in violent and unlawful demonstrations.

"Police will use maximum force in dealing with whoever intends to cause disorder and disturb the peaceful environment that we created for the good of our country," Mutodi warned.

"The law stipulates that police must be informed of any intention to hold a demonstration.

"The government is fully aware that the MDC wants to see chaos prevailing in the country so that it becomes ungovernable," he said further.

Zimbabwe was rocked by deadly riots in January last year over sharp fuel price hikes that were announced by Mnangagwa before he embarked on a trip to Eastern Europe.

Then, the government increased the price of petrol from US$1,32 to a whopping US$3,31 a litre — while diesel which was pegged at US$1,24 was hiked to an equally stiff US$3,11 per litre.

As a result, riots broke out in Harare and Bulawayo, leading to the death of 17 people at the hands of security forces.

Rights groups and medical doctors also said that more than 100 people were treated for gunshot wounds, while several women reported being raped by security agents.

On its part, the government blamed the killings on "rogue elements" within the security sector.

The chaos came after thousands of workers had heeded a three-day strike call by the ZCTU.

The January 2019 killings came hardly six months after soldiers had killed six civilians during ugly disturbances which occurred on August 1, 2018 — a day after the country's historic harmonised elections.

Meanwhile, and unfazed by the fresh threats of government heavy-handedness, militant unions have backed the calls by the MDC for demonstrations which they say are guaranteed by the Constitution.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary general Raymond Majongwe said teachers were used to the government's "jackboot" modus operandi.

"We are used to this model of iron fist leadership, but they must be reminded that no regime will keep its hands on a boiling pot forever.

"The issues we are raising are real. We are not deterred by the threats," said Majongwe.

On his part, the outspoken leader of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz), Obert Masaraure, said they would make 2020 "a year of resistance".

"2020 is a year of resistance. We will not be moved by either threats or physical victimisation.

"We are fed up with living in poverty when elites are milking our nation dry. The only way to stop us from protesting is to award us a living wage and put an end to corruption," the feisty Masaraure said.

ZCTU president Peter Mutasa claimed that the government wanted to ban unionism in the country, while also silencing anyone with divergent views.

"We know that they want to kill everyone who raises a dissenting voice against the exploitative and oppressive working conditions in the country.

"They are just confirming that they brazenly kill innocent citizens. We have already been warned that they are targeting trade union leaders and many of us are not safe in our own country.

"We are not aiming at removing them from power, but … workers are demanding a living wage, nothing more and nothing less," Mutasa said.

"The government has to focus on stopping the machete killers from committing genocide, not opening its armoury against long-suffering workers," he added.

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Source - dailynews