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Chamisa's MDC at crossroads: Damned if they do, damned if they don't

25 Jul 2019 at 08:06hrs | Views
FOR the best part of the last 12 months, the MDC has been threatening to roll out demonstrations and mass protests to either force President Emmerson Mnangagwa out of power or at least to the negotiating table.

The failing economy and the obvious cluelessness of the government to get the country on track again are seen as the right conditions for mass actions, but the MDC is dithering on the way forward.

The calls and appetite for mass action seem to be growing daily, but so with that is disillusionment, as it seems the MDC has no clue on how to proceed and the calls for demonstrations were just a knee-jerk reaction from a party that felt it had been cheated in the 2018 elections.

It does not help that party leader, Nelson Chamisa has issued several statements on when the demonstrations would be, but has not done so yet.

For example, he said he was waiting for the MDC congress and would afterwards give directions, but that meeting came and went and there still is radio silence from Chamisa.

After the congress, he shifted the goalposts, claiming he first wanted to introduce his executive to the provinces before giving his signal on the way forward.

Two months later, he is yet to make any pronouncement in this regard.

This is breeding disillusionment in the party, as evidenced by the angry reaction to the MDC's statement that seemed to disown Zengeza West lawmaker, Job Sikhala, after he allegedly said Mnangagwa should be forced out of power.

To many, Sikhala was just mirroring their frustrations and his alleged statements were part of their aspirations.

After all, they had been promised demonstrations since August 2018, but so far nothing had materialised.

On the other hand, there is a serious risk of infiltration and if the MDC calls for demonstrations without putting all their ducks in a row, they risk falling into a trap that Zanu-PF and the government long laid. In the past weeks, there have been some dodgy calls for demonstrations, which have all the hallmarks of counterintelligence plots.

Except for the Tajamuka one, which was always bound to fail, no one has stood up and taken ownership of any calls for demonstrations.

In essence, these are couched as leaderless demonstrations, but they are anything but, as calls for these protests are well co-ordinated and have the farthest reach.

But a big rat stinks and it is fortuitous that these planned protests have not succeeded, as I fear there could have been grave consequences had they gone as planned.

To this day, I am not convinced that the MDC or the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) had a hand in the January protests.

The ZCTU had been planning for protests for a while, but I am sure the scale of the January demonstrations shocked them as well, although I doubt they will admit it.

Those protests were certainly infiltrated. The scale of the violence was nothing ever seen before and it is no surprise that a good number of people who were arrested claimed they were soldiers or at least had military fatigue.

It is incredulous to think that these were demonstrations over fuel price increases that Mnangagwa had announced only two days earlier, because the scale of violence and the co-ordination seemed to be something that had long been planned.

My hunch without evidence is that the strike was not planned by the ZCTU.

Ordinary citizens were caught up in something bigger than them and had no clue that the response from the security services was pre-emptive.

I might sound like a conspiracy theory junkie, but my suspicion is that the response by the State was meant to strike fear into the hearts of Zimbabweans to a point that they can never again think of taking to the streets in the foreseeable future.

For now, it has worked, as any mention of protests evokes the spectre of a violent response by the government; it brings back memories of the internet shutdown and the loss of lives of citizens whose only crime was to exercise their constitutionally-guaranteed right to protest.

On the other hand, those suspected of leading the protests all face charges of subverting a constitutionally-elected government, while others have been given lengthy jail sentences in very curious circumstances.

In such circumstances, the MDC finds itself between a rock and a hard place on how they should proceed with their threat of demonstrations.

Some of their supporters are increasingly getting restive about the party not doing anything, yet the situation continues to deteriorate rapidly and are ready to take to the streets at the drop of a hat.

On the other hand, calling for a demonstration at this point could be nothing short of a suicide mission, where the leaders would be leading their supporters into a well laid trap, and the consequences would be dire.

It does not help that the MDC is losing the propaganda war to Zanu-PF and any deaths from the mooted protests would be blamed on the latter rather than the ruling party, which I find bizarre.

For example, never mind the heavy-handed approach to the January protests, forget the armed response to demonstrations in August 2018, Zanu-PF and the government still found a way to blame the MDC for the deaths of innocent people.

So, the MDC is in an invidious situation. They know the frustrations of their supporters, but do not seem to have a plan.

If they have one, they are not too sure on how to put into action; and that the end thereof would be bloodshed.

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Source - newsday
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