Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Sunday held a rally in one of the poorest suburbs under strict conditions that police set. Police maintained a heavy presence in and around the area where the rally was held.
These are members of the Zimbabwe Citizens’ Coalition for Change welcoming leader Nelson Chamisa at a rally in Harare. Citizens’ Coalition for Change is the new name for the main opposition party which split last year. At the rally, Chamisa promised to deal with corruption if elected president in 2023. He also denounced the government’s threat to dismiss teachers who have been on strike since the beginning of the month, seeking higher pay.
He said, “All teachers want is to revert to the $540 a month they were getting during the late President Robert Mugabe’s reign. People have a right to ask for food when they are hungry. Isn’t it? Fight for your rights until we get power and we give you back your original salary.”
Police gave the go-ahead late for the rally only under strict conditions. Among other things, the opposition was not supposed to have protest marches, singing or slogans. Additionally, the organizers were told to stick to the time set by police for the rally or risk having authorities quash the event.
Lovemore Chinoputsa, from the Citizens’ Coalition for Change, commented on the conditions.
“The conditions were not achievable. They were meant to curtail people and to make it difficult for everyone to come,” Chinoputsa said. “But we are happy that people of Zimbabwe know what we are pursuing and people of Zimbabwe are clear in terms of who should be their leadership.”
Rashid Mahiya, from non-governmental organization Heal Zimbabwe, said the country needs electoral reforms to ensure a level ground for political players.
“The conditions that were set are not conditions that should be set in a democratic society,” Mahiya said. “We expect the police to be non-partisan and respect the constitutional responsibilities and duties of the citizens, like right to assemble – clearly set in the constitution. When (ruling) ZANU-PF are holding their rallies, those conditions are not set. We want an even playing ground. We want these freedoms to be extended to all citizens.”
About 100 kilometers east of Harare, the ruling ZANU-PF held a campaign rally for by-elections set for next month. No conditions were set for them. The home affairs minister, Kazembe Kazembe, who is in charge of police, refused to comment on the issue.