MARONDERA, ZIMBABWE — Zimbabwe police Saturday blocked the country's main opposition party from holding rallies ahead of March 26 elections to fill seats that have fallen vacant since the general election in 2018. The police says the rally ban in Mavhunga, about 80 kilometers east of Harare, is meant to ensure peace and stability.
Police camped overnight Friday at a venue in Marondera, where the leader of Zimbabwe’s main opposition, the Citizens’ Coalition for Change, Nelson Chamisa, was supposed to address his supporters Saturday. The 44-year-old candidate later came to disperse the crowd waiting for him.
“We are a party of peace, a party of the rule of law,” he said.
Chamisa said his party does not want to fight with people. He said the government denied permission to hold a rally, so the party asked for permission to come and tell about that. He told his supporters he does not want the politics of Zimbabwe to cause any death. Then he added that what the government does not know is that here in Marondera, his arrival is good enough.
In an interview Sunday, Fadzayi Mahere, the Citizens’ Coalition for Change spokeswoman said her party was not happy with the bias of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the police in favor of the ruling ZANU-PF.
“Our rally in Marondera was purportedly banned and yet ZANU-PF was car rally and other unsanctioned in the very same area," she said. "Not once have they sought authorization or given notice to the police, yet these unlawful prohibitions are meted out against us. Ours is a struggle of non-violent resistance. However, the thousands that came out just to hear president Chamisa speak shows beyond any doubt that the citizens are prepared to do whatever it takes to reclaim their dignity. We continue to urge supporters to register to vote in their masses so that we attain our target in 2023: A landslide victory.”
Zimbabwe police Sunday refused to comment on the ban of the Citizens’ Coalition for Change in Marondera. It issued a letter to the opposition saying it needed time to prepare to ensure there was peace at the rally. Two weeks ago, violence instigated by suspected ruling ZANU-PF supporters at a Citizens’ Coalition for Change rally resulted in two deaths and dozens injured.
Alexander Rusero, a former senior politics lecturer at Harare Polytechnic college, says police and political parties must thwart violence at opposition rallies.
Police have arrested 16 suspected ZANU-PF supporters who are accused of causing the violence and who now face murder charges in connection with the deaths at the opposition rally.
Zimbabwe’s pre-election season has been marred by violence that has claimed lives and left thousands injured since 2000 after a strong opposition party emerged.