Opposition Members Protest in Zimbabwe
Thousands of Zimbabweans engaged in a nationwide protest on November 29, reported the Zimbabwe Times. Their concerns included deteriorating economic conditions, frustration over last year’s disputed election of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and what the opposition termed the government’s ongoing “cocktail of lies” as described by the Associated Press.
Many viewed Robert Mugabe’s removal from office in 2017 as a symbol of hope for the country. This marks the first protest by Zimbabwe’s primary opposition group, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), since the country’s presidential election in July. The party called on citizens to protest taxes, cash and fuel shortages, and rising prices. Protestors deliberately planned the demonstration for the same time the capital, Harare, hosted an Africa ICT convention attended by government ministers and hundreds of delegates from 31 African countries.
Protesters sang anti-government songs in Harare’s Central Africa Unity Square as the security in the capital intensified due to intelligence on potential violence, reported News24. They carried placards that read, “No to Zimbabwe’s local currency, the bond note,” and despite the non-partisan intention of the protests, many hailed MDC leader Nelson Chamisa with banners reading “Chamisa my President” and ”Chamisa the solution.”
During the assembly, Chamisa expressed his gratitude to protesters for organizing despite the heavy rains and urged the people to “always be peaceful” because “peace is our strength. Peace is our voice. Peace until victory!”
However, the ruling Zanu-PF party’s youth league encouraged citizens to protect their property “in view of the impending demonstration by ‘thugs’ and ‘stupids,’” according to Eyewitness News. The league also warned that “any attempt to destroy party property will not be taken lightly,” evoking memories of the August 1 protests that killed six citizens and for which responsibility has been denied by the opposition.
A presidential spokesperson said that the protestors will not be allowed to march in areas deemed protected, such as the State House and the presidential residence, but the MDC dismissed this and claimed that “police are enjoined at law to protect protestors.”
The DMC plans to hand a petition to parliament on the current economic challenges, according to the Zimbabwe Mail. In response to the protests, the government claimed that they are attempting to arrange a stable currency, although steps to do so have not been made clear. In addition, governmental leaders agreed to commence dialogue with Chamisa on the condition that he publicly accepts Mnangagwa’s victory.
According to Chamisa, the demonstration is “coming from the people, they need redress, solutions and they need them now.” However, it is uncertain whether this urgency will translate into immediate policy reforms.