The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) has urged the police to clear the planned MDC demonstration as it is a constitutional right for people to protest but quickly added that the opposition must restrain its supporters so the march remains peaceful.
The mainstream opposition is planning to picket against the current challenges afflicting the country on August 16 in Harare, with subsequent demos to be held in Bulawayo on August 19 followed by Gweru on the next day.
In an eight point worded statement, the NPRC implored the government to speedily address the country’s economic challenges as they were potential triggers of conflict.
On behalf of the chairperson, Commissioner Lillian Chigwedere said the commission had taken note of MDC’s call for public demonstrations to protest “for a resolution of the current challenges facing the people of Zimbabwe.”
“The NPRC recognises the constitutional right of persons and institutions to demonstrate and present petitions as long as these rights are exercised peacefully. To this end, the commission calls upon the leadership of MDC to implore their members to exercise restraint and put in place strategies and plans to make sure that the demonstration does not degenerate into violent conflict,” she said.
Chigwedere noted that the police was mandated to prevent crime, protect lives and property, maintain law and order and could do this while MDC went about its protest.
“The MDC must conduct itself in a peaceful manner and the NPRC urges the police to facilitate that those going about their normal businesses continue to do so without hindrance and that should there be need to exercise its powers, efforts be made to guarantee that the rights of person are respected so as to safeguard further inflammation of violence,” noted the commissioner.
On its part, the MDC said preparations for the People’s Free Zimbabwe Peaceful March are on course and now at an advanced stage.
MDC National Spokesperson, Daniel Molokele, claimed no stone had been left unturned in strict measures to make sure that the march was to be the most peaceful one.
“In particular, hundreds of peace marshals will be deployed. Further, digital cameras will be used to film the entire march to make sure that any violent planted elements trying to disrupt the peaceful march will be fully recorded. This is meant to make sure that the people’s Free Zimbabwe march is not just guaranteed to be peaceful, but also to be resounding success,” he said.
Molokele, however, expressed concerns over reports that the ruling party Zanu PF was planning to disrupt the demonstration.
“Indeed, Zanu PF and the rogue regime have no business whatsoever related to the people’s Free Zimbabwe peaceful march,” he said.
Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister, Cain Mathema, said although police were to give an official response, the situation on the ground indicated a lot of underhand activities.
“… with a view of fomenting violence, destruction of property, looting and attack on innocent civilians, motor vehicles, private property and government buildings. This has been buttressed by fliers and pamphlets seen in Epworth, Mbare, Kuwadzana, Glenview and Chitungwiza where opposition political activists have been implored to bring offensive and dangerous weapons for use against law enforcement agents during the purported demonstrations,” he alleged.
The minister said the government has a responsibility to protect citizens from unruly elements and would certainly not renege of this.
Mathema claimed that government was aware that some foreign nationals were in Zimbabwe on the pretext of being tourists yet they are activists, working closely with the opposition political parties to organise the demonstrations.
“Let me remind foreigners who are clearly dabbling in local politics that Zimbabwe is a sovereign state and will not allow people disguised as tourists to come promote anarchy and destruction of property in the country,” he said.
In his State of the Nation Address, President Emmerson Mnangagwa urged people to guard and defend peace in the country.
He described last year’s August 1 and this year’s January incidents as regrettable as they threatened peace and stability in the country.
“Since then I am happy to say our country has and continues to enjoy undisturbed peace and stability and a strong sense of accountability promoted by the international inquiry which followed that temporary set back,” Mnangagwa said.