Harare - In an unprecedented development, a protest by the Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic Change party proceeded without a clampdown by the government early this week.
The peaceful march in Harare by the MDC-T on Tuesday represents a huge step by the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa in embracing dissenting voices.
It is in stark contrast to the heavy-handed response to opposition protest by the administration of toppled leader, Robert Mugabe, whose government endorsed police actions to violently disperse protests by the opposition and arresting rival leaders.
The MDC-T took to the streets of the capital on Tuesday demanding that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) implement a number of electoral reforms before polls that are set for 30 July.
The biggest threat to Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front’s (ZANU-PF) stranglehold on power since independence in 1980, the MDC-T argues electoral authorities are biased in favour of the ruling party.
Nelson Chamisa, the leader of a faction of the MDC-T, heaped praise on the police force after the march proceeded without the usual police heavy-handedness.
“Let’s give credit where it is due,” the opposition candidate said. “The Zimbabwe Republic Police did a good job today (Tuesday). We have done our march without incidents,” Chamisa said.
President Mnangagwa said the uninterrupted MDC demonstration was a sign the opposition was enjoying democracy in the country.
“Every person has the right to demonstrate and to present petitions, but these rights must be exercised peacefully," Mnangagwa told journalists at State House.
Mnangagwa, in response to MDC grievances, said he had recently signed into law the reforms relating to the Electoral Act aimed at levelling the political field.
ZANU-PF youths on Wednesday staged their own march in solidarity with the government and President Mnangagwa for the prevailing peaceful political atmosphere and economic reforms in the country.
Meanwhile, the MDC-T is in a race against time to put its house in order ahead of watershed elections set for the end of July.
Eight weeks before the polls, the MDC-T Alliance is beset by jostling for positions, infighting, internal violence and incomplete primary elections nationwide, which is seen as working in favour of ZANU-PF which has since overcome its internal problems.
A fractured MDC-T is represented by two factional leaders, Nelson Chamisa and Thokozani Khupe, who have both claimed legitimacy after the death of the founding president, Morgan Tsvangirai, in February this year.
The party is yet to establish its election manifesto because of the internal shambles and the fight against electoral authorities that the opposition argues has failed to level the playing field for the elections.
Khupe’s faction is against the holding of the polls on 30 July, arguing the date was too close and did not factor in opposition’s demands for electoral reforms.
The demands include the auditing of the voters’ roll.
The splinter group is against the alleged involvement of the retired military officers employed by ZEC.
“There is an uneven election ground, as the system is still ignoring the abuse of women in politics due to the patriarchal nature of Zimbabwean politics," Khupe added.
The other MDC-T faction for Chamisa is experiencing violence following disgruntled supporters who threatened to lock the party leader out of its headquarters in Harare over incomplete primary elections early this week.
Bloody clashes have characterised the exercise, such as in the capital city’s Epworth constituency where candidate Earthrage Kureva is alleged to have used violence and intimidation to win the primaries.
Similar scenes have been experienced in Mutare, the country's fourth-largest city.
Prosper Mutseyami, a former Musikavanhu parliamentarian, was injured after a rival party camp attacked him.
Internal polls were also shambolic in the tourist attraction district of Nyanga North.
Welshman Ncube of the MDC-T Alliance, summed up the chaos derailing the opposition’s preparations.
“If we do not change the State House issue, that is the President, we won’t be doing ourselves any favours,” Ncube said.
“Instead, we should all be fighting to change the government (ZANU-PF, not internally fighting),” Ncube added.
Runesu Zhakata of Epworth said time was running out for the opposition to launch its manifesto and challenge ZANU-PF.
“This confirms that the Zimbabwean opposition has nothing to offer except bad-mouthing the ruling party," Zhakata said.
The opposition’s skirmishes are in contrast to ZANU-PF’s fortunes. Incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa has held massive rallies and charmed investors and the electorate with his call for credible polls. – CAJ News