Members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) Youth Assembly on Monday defied a police ban on their march in Harare to commemorate the International Day of the African Child.
More than 300 members of the youth wing of the MDC formation led by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai gathered at Town House, sang revolutionary songs and waved placards, calling for the ruling party to fulfill its 2013 election promises.
Most of the demonstrators held placards with protest messages inscribed, “We Want Our Jobs Now – Mugabe Must Go Now”.
When the protestors were about to leave Town House heading to Harare Gardens – the planned venue of the commemorations - heavily armed police officers then arrived and ordered the protestors to disperse but their calls were ignored.
One of the youth leaders, Denford Ngadziore, who is the MDC-T youth provincial secretary, was immediately handcuffed by police, taken to the back a police van and then to Harare Central Station. Following Ngadziore’s arrest, his fellow demonstrators started booing the police and headed to the Harare Gardens.
The police followed the protestors to the venue where they were addressed by leaders of the party’s Youth Assembly, who included the chairperson of Harare Province Shakespeare Mukoyi.
He told the crowd that President Robert Mugabe should leave office because he has failed to provide the 2.2 million jobs that his party promised in the run-up to last year’s disputed national elections.
He also criticized the police for arresting Ngadziore and trying to stop them from marching, saying their behavior was similar to that of the apartheid regime in South Africa where youths were killed and maimed in 1976 while demanding their rights.
The national spokesperson of the MDC-T Youth Assembly, Clifford Hlatshwayo, said the struggles of the young people of South Africa in 1976 were similar with those affecting the Zimbabwean youth today.
At the same time, the Assembly’s organizing secretary, Happymore Chidziva, announced that there will be what he called a winter of discontent in the country with mass action starting in July.
Chidziva said the protests will not stop until the end of July, which he called a D-Day for President Mugabe - a day marking exactly a year after the 90 year-old leader was re-elected.
Former Labor Minister in the unity government, Paurina Gwanyanya Mpariwa, attended the protests where she urged the government to respect the rights of young people, including the provision of decent work and education as enshrined in the country’s new constitution.
Political analyst and director of the Media Centre, Earnest Mudzengi, said even though the youths were parroting a party position line regarding mass protests, it might be difficult to get the buy-in of ordinary Zimbabweans as long as the opposition is still entangled in leadership squabbles.
The International Day of the African Child was commemorated in several countries Monday while some youth organizations are also planning some belated events.
The day was set aside by the Organization of African Unity, now the African Union, in 1991 following a students’ uprising in South Africa in 1976. In those protests, the police in the then apartheid South Africa shot dead 69 youths and injured many others in an act that was condemned worldwide.