The MDC-T, which won general and presidential elections in March 2008, is favoured to win the coming elections and so the police moves to bar the congress are meant to shore up Mugabe and his Zanu PF party’s chances of upstaging the MDC-T.
The openly partisan police claim they do not have adequate manpower to cover the meeting and are also demanding US$10 000 a day to provide extra security. The party is also being barred from using education institutions for accommodation, which might leave hundreds of delegates stranded.
Zanu PF uses schools and colleges whenever it holds its meetings and has never paid the police for ensuring peace and security at its functions.
Since the Public Order and Security Act was passed into law, the police have routinely used the lack of manpower as an excuse to bar political gatherings and there are fears that the police were planning to stop the MDC-T’s elective congress.
The police have been used by Zanu PF recently to thwart MDC-T programmes and arrested MDC-T legislators on charges that have failed to stand in court of law. They are accused of selective application of the law.
The police reportedly informed the party that they had reviewed the security situation in light of MDC-T’s organising secretary, Elias Mudzuri’s sentiments that the party could not guarantee peace during its congress.
Mudzuri is reported to have said: “I cannot guarantee peace during the congress . . . Even God has never guaranteed peace but given some guidelines of living with each other.”
But, Nelson Chamisa, the party’s spokesperson claimed that Mudzuri had been misquoted and it was unfortunate that police could be using this as a guise to throw spanners into the congress.
He said the congress would go ahead, as the police did not have the powers to suspend it, after being informed on time.
Deputy spokesperson, Thabitha Khumalo said the police had informed them on the shortage of manpower, but did not say what they would do to increase the number of officers during the congress.
Khumalo said they had been informally told that they might have to pay for extra security, although this was yet to be confirmed.
“There is nothing concrete yet, but we might have to pay,” she said. “Basing on history, we might have to pay US$10 000 a day.”
The former trade unionist said in cases where police had said they did not have adequate manpower, they demanded that organisers of meetings pay the equivalent of daily allowances for the officers who would be on duty.
The MDC-T congress will be held from April 28 to 30, which means if the police get their way, the party would have to fork out US$30 000 for the three-day meeting.
Contacted for comment during the week, police spokesperson, Wayne Bvudzidjena said he would look into the issue and provide more details.
However, efforts to contact him later were in vain, as his mobile phone was off.
With 5 000 delegates expected in Bulawayo, most hotels and lodges are fully-booked and the situation is being worsened by the fact that some rooms have been booked by delegates attending the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, which begins a week after the party’s congress.