Why another ‘massive’ Zimbabwean opposition rally flopped

The major hope for opposition success against Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF lies in an opposition collation. But this is unlikely to be easily formed by the major parties who cannot agree on how to configure an alliance or who should lead it.

Opposition parties in Zimbabwe, led by Morgan Tsvangirai and the Movement for Democratic Change, held a demonstration in Harare on Wednesday last week but it was anything but “massive” or “mega” as organisers and supporters billed it to be.

The demonstration was held under the banner of the “National Election Reform Agenda”, a loose coalition of about 10 political parties seeking to force the government to reform electoral laws which they feel favour the ruling Zanu-PF.

For its own part, the MDC-T led by Tsvangirai has been boycotting by-elections arguing that it will not participate in a sham process that favours President Robert Mugabe’s party.

However, the party has indicated that it will participate in general elections to be held next year, raising questions about the current “no reforms, no elections” stance.

The stance, which is not universally agreed upon within the party, is viewed by some observers as a way to avoid embarrassing losses to Zanu-PF, the runaway winners of the 2013 elections. In that poll, Zanu-PF amassed more than two-thirds majority while Mugabe claimed 66% of the presidential vote.

Away from the ballot, the opposition has been trying to ramp up pressure on government mainly through street demonstrations and stayaways.

Wednesday’s demonstration was the first big opposition protest action of 2017, which organisers hoped would revive what appeared to be a growing momentum of opposition protests around the middle of last year.

Everything was in place: political leaders from Tsvangirai, Tendai Biti (ex-MDC secretary-general, now leader of People’s Democratic Party); Didymus Mutasa (former State Security Minister and founder of Zimbabwe People First) and leaders of a number of smaller parties.

Pastor Evan Mawarire of #ThisFlag movement was there.

There were also civic and church leaders, including the Kariba (a border Town in the north) pastor Philip Mugadza who has predicted that Mugabe will die in October – earning himself arrest in the process in a case that is still before the courts.

But the demonstration was not well attended.

Only 200 people, mainly MDC-T supporters, gathered at an open space near the Harare Showgrounds which the opposition has dubbed “Freedom Square”.

Leaders of the smaller parties took turns to endorse Tsvangirai as the leader of a mooted coalition to contest in next year’s elections.

Joice Mujuru, former vice-president and leader of National People’s Party was conspicuous by her absence.

Mujuru’s spokesperson, Jealousy Mawarire, explained that the party was busy with preparations for a convention to choose leaders of her recently rebranded party.

The low subscription to the opposition rally indicates a number of things – and it has little to do with authorities’ repression or fear of reprisals often blamed on Mugabe’s government.

Simply, the opposition in Zimbabwe, bearing the face of Tsvangirai’s MDC-T, is failing to inspire the people after successive losses and continued fragmentation of the movement.

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By Tichaona Zindoga

Credit picture: Getty images.