BULAWAYO – A fired-up opposition leader,
Morgan Tsvangirai, raised the political
stakes yesterday when he bluntly told
President Robert Mugabe to heed the growing
calls for him to quit power now peacefully, to
save Zimbabwe and to avoid the risk of being
removed from office violently.
Addressing thousands of MDC supporters in
the City of Kings’ White City Stadium, who
had gathered to mark the 17th anniversary
of the founding of the party, Tsvangirai said
it was also in Mugabe’s own interest and
that of his family that he relinquished power
immediately.
“There are two options to the end-game. The
first option of the end-game is a violent end
and the second option is a peaceful
transition.
“Mugabe must choose one of these two
options, a violent option where we get to a
point where someone is shot because he or
she is simply demonstrating, or the stage
where Mugabe chooses to install his wife
Grace as president, at which point it becomes
gloves off and people confront the regime,”
Tsvangirai warned.
This is not the first time that the former
prime minister in the government of national
unity has warned Mugabe about the risks of
a violent end to his rule.
Addressing his supporters at Rufaro Stadium
in Harare in September 2000, as the MDC was
celebrating its first anniversary, Tsvangirai
also told Mugabe that he risked being
removed violently from office as
Zimbabweans were fed up with his misrule.
And as the MDC leader revisited the issue
yesterday, there were growing fears that
Mugabe and his government are increasingly
resorting to using the country’s security
apparatus more and more, in their desperate
bid to fend off restive citizens who have
been demonstrating endlessly as a result of
the dying economy and the attendant
hardships.
Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabweans have
known since the country gained its
independence from Britain in April 1980, is
battling to save his long political career as
civil unrest escalates over the ever-
deteriorating quality of local life, which they
blame squarely on his misrule.
But the increasingly frail nonagenarian has
not taken lightly to the challenge to his
power, unleashing the country’s security
apparatus on the restive populace with
devastating consequences — amid fears that
the government may soon effect a State of
Emergency to foil further protests.
Two weeks ago, police and soldiers ran amok
in many of Harare’s high density suburbs
where they indiscriminately beat up nightclub
revellers, before they also ordered the early
closure of shops in Chitungwiza.
Authorities also savaged and arrested scores
of pro-democracy activists and opposition
members coalescing under the banner of the
National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera),
who were holding nationwide protests to
press for much-needed electoral reforms
ahead of the eagerly-anticipated 2018
national elections.
This was despite the fact that
demonstrations outside central Harare had
not been included in the current police ban
on mass action of any kind.
Tsvangirai said yesterday that the time was
now ripe for Mugabe to leave office, as his
continued stay was driving the country
further into the mire.
“There is an alternative option. Mugabe must
retire. All Zimbabweans are saying it.
President (Ian) Khama of Botswana recently
said it and the whole world is now also saying
Mugabe must retire, and after he retires
there will be a peaceful transition,” he said.
Two weeks ago, Khama openly told Mugabe
that it was time for him to leave office,
adding that the nonagenarian should step
aside without delay and allow new leadership
to take over as Zimbabwe’s political and
economic implosion which began in 2000 was
dragging down the whole of southern Africa.
Asked by news agency Reuters if Mugabe
should accept the reality of his advancing
years and retire, 63-year-old Khama
responded: “Without doubt. He should have
done it years ago”.
“They have got plenty of people there who
have got good leadership qualities who could
take over. It is obvious that at his age and
the state Zimbabwe is in, he’s not really able
to provide the leadership that could get it
out of its predicament,” Khama added.
Tsvangirai piled the pressure on the
nonagenarian yesterday saying there was
nothing that Mugabe could do to extend his
stay in power.
“This is the end-game and all we have to do
is to re-define it so that it reflects the true
aspirations of the patriotic sons and
daughters of this land. In spite of the
ongoing brutality and sustained attacks on
citizens, the people have remained united,
peaceful, committed and resolute.
“That has been the nature and character of
our struggle for the past 17 years. Armed
only with our bare hands and determination,
we have succeeded in pushing a brutal regime
into a corner through our sheer
determination in demanding the respect for
our basic rights and freedoms.
“What we have seen in the past few months
is that this nation has broken free of the
ghost of fear. We have broken the siege, a
feat we in the MDC achieved when we kicked
off public protest marches in the country
with that demonstration in the streets of
Harare on April 14, 2016,” Tsvangirai said.
He also asserted that there would be no
going back on Zimbabweans’ demands for
electoral reforms ahead of the eagerly-
anticipated 2018 national elections, despite
Zanu PF’s insistence that this would not
happen.
“The issue of reforms is not negotiable. We
will continue fighting to get the electoral
reforms. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
(Zec) must remove all obstacles to free and
fair elections.
“Now as we go towards the 2018 elections,
we know the elections have already been
rigged. We know Zanu PF has sent 150
agents to Israel on election-rigging
tactics,” Tsvangirai claimed.
Nera has watched in frustration in recent
weeks as police have thwarted their protests
aimed at forcing the implementation of the
much-needed electoral reforms.
Police have twice tried to frustrate the
political grouping by invoking protest bans,
with the courts having to intervene on
numerous occasions as panicking authorities
have increasingly turned to the draconian
Public Order and Security Act (Posa) to keep
the opposition and pro-democracy activists
at bay.
As it is, the High Court will be making
another ruling tomorrow on the latest police
ban. Nera wants the court to declare section
27 of Posa unconstitutional.