The Morgan Tsvangirai led MDC has chickened out of a threat to mobilise informal traders against forced removals from their stalls.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Government has resorted to brute force to rid, especially Harare, of thousands of vendors who have invaded the city’s streets as the country’s economic troubles continue to mount.
Almost 30 informal traders were arrested, while six were severely injured in a military style operation that turned Harare into a war-zone late last week as authorities turned on the power to force vendors off the streets of the capital city.
The opposition party has continued to issue threats in one form or another but producing no tangible action and political watchers contend the party might have lost its fighting spirit.
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu, while refusing to categorically state his party’s position on the vendors’ predicament, was emphatic the opposition party “has a strategy”.
“The MDC is not in the habit of chickening out. Of course, you don’t expect us to disclose our strategy to the media,” Gutu said.
The former deputy justice minister said government needed to address the emotive issue of informal traders in an objective way.
“The MDC has always submitted that the issue of vendors should be addressed holistically and objectively. First of all, we should focus on curing the main cause of the disease rather than concentrating all our efforts on suppressing the symptoms,” he said.
Observers have pointed to the stand-off between government and ordinary citizens who have been forced into informal activities due to economic hardships as a possible turning point in the fortunes of a comatose opposition movement still trying to find answers after the 2013 electoral crushing at the hands of Zanu PF.
Political analyst Alexander Rusero said the MDC-T has lost its “yesteryear mojo”.
“The MDC that we are looking at now is very different from the 1999 crop of democracy activists. They will not regain the 1999 mojo, this is a caricature of the labour backed party that we had come to know,” Rusero said.
Rusero argued that the people were on their own and no political party was on their side.
“The ordinary people are very aware that they are on their own. Any attempt to try and claim vendors by a political party is misplaced,” he said.
“The MDC has become very vocal, issuing statements and press conferencing and threats but nothing in terms of action. This is a terrified group of politicians forced into a corner by the appointment of Saviour Kasukuwere [Local Government minister]. They would not want to be his first punching bags.”
The MDC-T’s volte-face comes only a month after making combative statements when government threatened to unleash the military to forcibly remove the vendors.
MDC-T secretary general Douglas Mwonzora indicated that the opposition political outfit would galvanise the informal traders against the state.
“We want to organise vendors to fight back. These are citizens trying desperately to eke out an honest living in an environment with no other means of survival. Instead of turning the military against the people, Mugabe should create the jobs he promised,” Mwonzora said last month.
Another political analyst Ibbo Mandaza was even more critical of the opposition.
“They have exposed themselves because these threats are empty and will continue to be so. This is because they have this warped understanding that opposition to Mugabe, which is actually 90% of the country, is synonymous with the MDC-T. It is wrong, now they have tried onto the social bandwagon and realised it is running parallel to their agenda,” said Mandaza.
“The people have lost confidence in the opposition and hence these political parties need a reality check.”
Tsvangirai has since the disputed electoral defeat to Mugabe two years ago threatened “rolling mass action” to force Mugabe to implement electoral and other reforms but has had to contend with a poll boycott.
Vice-President Emmerson Mna-ngagwa last month chided the MDC-T, saying Zanu PF would continue to rule and run elections despite the fact that Tsvangirai was boycotting the same.