Let them march, says Mnangagwa; ‘The playing field is perfectly level’

Zimbabwe President Nelson Chamisa
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HARARE – President Mnangagwa said the uninterrupted demonstration by the MDC Alliance in Harare yesterday was a sign the opposition was enjoying democracy in the country after he instructed security agencies to let the protest to go ahead.

He was speaking to reporters at State House after meeting the President of the Saharawi Republic, Mr Brahim Ghali.

“They are enjoying democracy which exists in this country,” said President Mnangagwa. “I think they are so happy that there is an environment where they can express themselves right, left and centre. But of course in relation to the forthcoming harmonised elections, already less than two weeks ago, I signed into law the reforms relating to the Electoral Act, so the playing field is perfectly level.”

President Mnangagwa on Monday stressed to the country’s security structures and Zanu-PF the need to uphold Section 59 of the Constitution which allows the right to demonstrate, as the MDC-T yesterday marched in Harare for so-called electoral reforms.

Section 59 of the Constitution states: “Every person has the right to demonstrate and to present petitions, but these rights must be exercised peacefully.”

The new administration allowed the MDC-T to stage the demonstration freely in the central business district and to gather in Africa Unity Square where the leadership made speeches.

Such demonstrations were severely dealt with by law enforcement agencies during the Robert Mugabe era.

The dawn of the new era has witnessed the opening up of the democratic space in the country despite claims to the contrary by opposition political parties, especially the MDC-T and its alliance partners.

In an interview with The Herald yesterday, Secretary for Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Mr George Charamba confirmed President Mnangagwa had no problems with the demonstrations as such rights were enshrined in the Constitution.

“Yes, His Excellency the President underlined to security structures that Section 59 of the Constitution which allows the right to demonstrate must be respected and that its provision in the supreme law of the country guarantees a right whose enjoyment cannot be optional except in terms provided for under the same Constitution,” said Mr Charamba.

“To that end, he impressed on the security structures that in the absence of any real good reasons that would justify abridgement of that right to demonstrate, the request by the opposition should be honoured.”

President Mnangagwa, who is also the Zanu-PF First Secretary and President, relayed the same message to the ruling party.

The Herald understands that the Zanu-PF Youth League had planned its solidarity march for peaceful elections in support of the President yesterday, the same day as the MDC-T’s demonstration.

“Equally, the President communicated to the leadership of the party that the party could not raise demonstrations on the same day and in the same space already secured by the opposition as to do that would raise the risk of inter-party clashes, thereby undermining the overarching goal of ensuring a peaceful, violence-free poll,” said Mr Charamba.

During the term of the previous administration, Zanu-PF supporters would stage demonstrations on the same day as MDC-T followers and these inevitably ended in bloody clashes.

“The President said if the party (Zanu-PF) wanted to mount a demonstration it had to do it either before the opposition one or after it in terms of the same section of the Constitution,” said Mr Charamba. “He stressed the importance of peace, peace, peace. Order, order and respect for persons and property.”

Since his inauguration last November, President Mnangagwa and his administration have worked tirelessly to open up the democratic space.

President Mnangagwa is walking the talk on his pledges that include delivering a free, fair, credible and democratic election.

He has invited literally the whole world to come and observe the country’s harmonised elections set for July 30, including countries previously hostile to Zimbabwe.

President Mnangagwa is also opening Zimbabwe to foreign direct investment and has reviewed policies that are thought to be inimical to the flow of capital into the country.

Source: Herald