Speaking to NewsDay ahead of planned July 31 protests, MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere said the only option was for Zimbabweans to take to the streets and confront the regime.
“What do we do? We take to the streets, we have to find our collective voice, and it’s not just about the 31st of July. I think that’s what I need to emphasise that’s just about one day, so it’s not as if once the 31st of July comes and goes, we sort of forget about the need to stand up and speak out against the government. There is no magic around that day. There is need to unite. Speaking out against the government has to be a continuous obligation on each citizen,” Mahere said.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has clamped down on all opposing voices, arresting the organiser of July 31 protests, Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume and journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, who are currently battling to be freed from remand prison.
Mahere said it was now time for Zimbabweans to unite and speak with one voice because the system had declared war on citizens.
“We have to form a broad church, nobody is safe whether it’s MDC Alliance MPs, church leaders, teachers, nurses, civic society, business, they are coming for everybody. So it’s time for us to all come together and say Zanu-PF must go because the system has declared war on everybody, on all of us, so we have to find our collective voice,” she said.
The MDC Alliance said people needed to fight for basic rights and freedoms such as access to health and general welfare which were under threat.
“Regardless of the fact that we are hungry and the cost of living is escalating and we cannot afford public health, people should be allowed to come out on the 31st of July regardless of who is organising it and they should be able to do that on any other day. People have the right to do that peacefully, socially distanced you know, even if it’s during
the time of COVID-19 people should be allowed to express themselves. There is no law on earth which says during a pandemic people cannot protest,” she said.
Despite indications that government would thwart the demonstrations before they even begin, Mahere said more was at stake for the people of Zimbabwe.
“The right to a livelihood, the right to public health, all of these rights are under threat, the right to access information. We have been asked to pay taxes in terms of the law and yet these taxes are spent on farm mechanisation, tractors, and when we ask who gets all these tractors, they arrest journalists doing their work,” she said.
“They deny these journalists bail, but yet the very people who are corrupt, the very people who are stealing COVID-19 money, the State surprisingly says no we are not going to challenge bail against you.
“When we say corruption is killing us, when we say human rights are under threat, when we say we can’t breathe, this is precisely what we mean. Human rights, freedom, Constitution all these are in existence for our security as a people.”
The MDC Alliance said Mnangagwa, politics and the clampdown on human rights were the major problems in Zimbabwe and not the economy.
“Then they say we have an economic crisis. No, that’s not where our crisis is, our crisis is political in nature. If we allow people to be free, if we allow people to breathe in an environment where they have all these freedoms, we will be fine,” she said.
“The other day, my EcoCash data was in the hands of some random police officer. How is that normal? How is that OK? I gave my records to EcoCash, I subscribed, I have a right to privacy and the next thing I know, some police officer says no, they now have my name, address, phone number. That is not freedom.”
The police on July 17 were granted an order against Econet, which has more than 11 million subscribers, to hand over details of its mobile money transactions and subscribers on EcoCash because authorities suspect its network was used in money-laundering.
Econet successfully challenged the warrant at the High Court last week saying it constituted a violation of the company and its subscribers’ right to privacy.
However, Zanu-PF youths led by Tendai Chirau said they would defend Mnangagwa and any attempts to remove him from power would be resisted.
“We reiterate our support for President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and it is in this light that if there are any issues we have as a nation, we have to do it through patriotic means. There are better ways to address the issues rather than using demonstrations, especially in this time of COVID-19. It becomes a cause for concern,” he said.
Government has insisted the July 31 demonstrations are being fuelled by the West.
“The mortal fear of Africa by the West is the economic success of a self-sustainable African nation. Zimbabwe now offers that prospect after braving devastating sanctions by the West for two decades. No wonder the pandemonium being engendered by the fear of a good example,” Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said in a statement on Saturday.
She said Mnangagwa was aware of the “evil and devilish” agenda by the West.
“President Mnangagwa and his government are fully apprised on this evil agenda and devilish machinations. We will keep the course of re-engagement while safeguarding the nation from a slide to chaos,” Mutsvangwa said.