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MDC Press Conference Ahead of Friday, August 16 Demonstrations

Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change is pressing on with its plans to hold demonstrations Friday in the capital, Harare.

Addressing a press conference in Harare on Wednesday, the party’s spokesperson, Daniel Molokele, quelled rumors and reports that the party had cancelled the demonstrations.

“Ignore this whole propaganda,” Molokele told journalists from the party’s Morgan Tsvangirai House headquarters.

“We are definitely going ahead. That is the message that is coming out. All systems go, and it is very important for everyone out there to know we are not even thinking twice. We are very clear. Emphatically clear that on Friday we are going ahead,” Molokele stressed.

Molokele further said that Friday’s demonstration was “just the launch date” of a series of other demonstrations the party plans to hold throughout the country, until the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa resolves issues the party has raised pertaining to the state of the economy and human rights.

“It’s a permanent process,” said Molokele, and announced that the party will hold similar demonstrations in Bulawayo, Gweru, Masvingo and Mutare respectively, beginning Monday next week.

“We will continue to roll out town by town, city by city, so this is a nationwide strategy to all Zimbabweans across the country to freely express themselves,” said Molokele.

Zimbabwe’s constitution allows for demonstrations in the country, but the government has discouraged citizens from participating in the MDC protests, fearing an outbreak of violence.

Speaking at a cabinet briefing in Harare, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said, “As Zimbabweans, let us shun the culture of violence, which brings about the loss of livelihoods, and undermines our peace and unity."

Earlier in the week during Heroes Day commemorations, the secretary general of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), Victor Matemadanda, who is also the deputy minister of defense, criticized the opposition’s plans to demonstrate.

The secretary general of the ruling Zanu-PF’s Youth League, Lewis Matutu, has threatened to stop the protests from going ahead, citing the looting of shots and theft during previous demonstrations.

“We can’t allow them to do that again,” said Matutu.

The chairman of the Mashonaland West Zanu-PF Youth League, Vengai Musengi, whose group will be holding a separate gathering at the Harare Gardens on Friday, said they do not plan to disrupt the demonstrations, but will do so if they turn violent.

The MDC led by former presidential candidate Advocate Nelson Chamisa, who challenged the outcome of last year’s elections in court, has continued to question President Mnangagwa’s legitimacy, and attributes the country’s economic decline, on that fact.

“The election was stolen in broad daylight, and since then, the crisis of legitimacy has manifested itself through a multi-layer of challenges that have manifested themselves through such issues as power shortages, the load shedding we are seeing, water and fuel shortages, indecent wages, high prices and general erosion of people’s dignity, among other challenges,” said Molokele.

Mnangagwa and his government have dismissed the MDC claims of legitimacy, saying the Constitutional Court decision declaring him the winner of the elections, was unanimous.

Mnangagwa has called on the MDC to join in ongoing dialogue aimed to address the economy and other issues, but the MDC and five other opposition parties that contested the elections, have refused.

FILE - United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols, left, is seen during a courtesy call with Zimbabwean President elect Emmerson Mnangagwa at his official residence State House in Harare, Aug, 15, 2018. Nichols emphasized the need to respect human rights.

The United States has condemned the abduction and torture of some civil society leaders ahead of the Movement for Democratic Change’s planned protests on Friday on the deteriorating economic situation in Zimbabwe.

In a tweet, the U.S. Embassy-Harare said the abduction of Tatenda Mombeyarara of Citizens’ Manifesto and Blessing Kunotunga, who were brutalized by suspected state security agents for their involvement in the planned public protests, was a violation of their rights as enshrined in the country’s constitution.

“The U.S. government is concerned about renewed reports of abductions and assault of civil society members and opposition party members. Harassment and intimidation have no place in a democratic and pluralistic society.

“We will be visiting victims of the latest violence against civil society and opposition activists to hear their stories and document their injuries. We call on the GOZ (Government of Zimbabwe) to condemn these attacks and hold those responsible to account.”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has not yet reacted to the abductions while some people are attacking the U.S for condemning the brutalization of activists by state security agents.

Reacting to the United States government’s remarks on the abductions, a person identified only as Tatenda on Twitter said, “Suddenly the @usembassyharare becomes active again coz its baby @MDCAllianceZW has started staging abductions. Pathetic. Why is MDC not reporting to the @PoliceZimbabwe? Why not let the Police do its job? Stop with the double standards, nonsense. Let the @PoliceZimbabwe handle the allegations if there is anything to go by. And I will not listen to American hypocrisy when they are worst pepetrators against human rights violations. Enough with the bullying and intimidation.”

However, Siphosami Malunga, a human rights lawyer, said the abductions were worrying.

“This is really exasperating! When we are busy encouraging national dialogue as a way to peacefully resolve the country's crisis you resort to this? Only cowards send gangs of armed people to abduct unarmed individuals, torture and kill defenceless people. One day, in this life or the next, there will be accountability. Never ever did Mugabe & his CIO enforcers think they will one day be the victims of violence. But they were in Nov 2017. The crisis will not go away & pple will not stop demanding change. Fix the real problem!”

His remarks were echoed by Roselyn Hanzi, who said, “Use of torture in this day & age is not only regrettable but barbaric & evil. That is why all countries in world qualified torture as customary international law. No state must torture citizens. Wishing Tatenda a quick recovery.”

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights also expressed dismay over the brutal attacks saying, “Its with great sadness & regret that @ZLHRLawyers confirms the abduction and severe assault, torture by 6 heavily armed unidentified men from his home early this morning. During the assault/torture they interrogated him about Maldives training.

“Method of torture used has been by state agents only. We have documented cases. Four of these men were armed with AK Rifles, one with a small fire arm.”

Tsitsi Dangarembwa, writer and human rights activist, noted that abductions were retrogressive and an affront to Zimbabwe’s democratic principles.

“Dear people of Zimbabwe, inflammatory actions, eg abducting people said to be organisers of Aug 16 demo have begun. It is to make you angry so you cannot control yourselves at the demo. Pray & meditate for self restraint. Walk peacefully, put doers & inciters of violence to shame.

The MDC said it will state the protests despite being allegedly intimidated by state security agents and Zanu PF activists.

In a statement, the party said, “It’s all systems go for the people’s march on Friday”, adding that the deteriorating economic situation in Zimbabwe resulted from a stolen election.

“On the 31st of July 2018, Zimbabweans overwhelmingly voted for President Nelson Chamisa. That election was stolen in broad daylight and since then, the crisis of legitimacy has manifested itself through multi-layered challenges that have manifested themselves through power outages, water and fuel shortages, indecent wages, high prices and the erosion of the people’s dignity, among other challenges.

“To express their displeasure at the serious challenges in the country, Zimbabweans will begin a series of peaceful demonstrations that will kick off in Harare on Friday, 16 August 2019. The preparations for the Free Zimbabwe march are at an advanced stage. All the necessary logistical preparations have been done and we are looking forward to a successful peaceful march by Zimbabweans on Friday.”

The party said it will stage a peaceful protests with MDC activists using cameras to fish out imposters. “The MDC is a peaceful and law-abiding party. To that end, we have complied with the requirements under both section 59 of the national Constitution and the Public Order and Security Act. There will be no party regalia as this is a peaceful march by the generality of the people of Zimbabwe who are suffering under the current crisis.

“Every Zimbabwean will be marching to end this suffering until we achieve a legitimate people’s government that will begin to address the serious challenges facing the country. Until that is achieved, we will not rest and we will continue to exercise our democratic right to demonstrate peacefully.”

The party said the protests was designed to highlight all problems faced by Zimbabweans.

“On Friday, we will be marching for jobs, for affordable health care facilities, for electricity, for affordable education, availability of fuel and water and decent salaries for our civil servants and the ordinary workers of Zimbabwe. We shall march for the restoration of the people’s dignity and for the return of functional industries, for democracy, accountability and the respect of human rights. We will be marching against the culture and ailment of corruption, impunity, abductions, and the erosion of the people’s dignity, looting and embezzlement that have afflicted the country’s entire body politic.

“We say no to the killing and torturing of innocent Zimbabweans and civic and democracy activists. We want to end illegitimacy and ensure that there is a people’s government. We will be rolling out these peaceful and constitutional protests in all the towns. After Harare, the Zimbabweans citizens will be holding peaceful protests in Bulawayo next Monday, Gweru on Tuesday, Masvingo on Wednesday and Mutare on Thursday. The roll-out for other cities and towns will be announced later.”

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