MDC anniversary in limbo

MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa could be heading for a fresh clash with authorities after police issued a blanket ban on all public gatherings in Harare as part of efforts to combat a deadly cholera outbreak that has thus far claimed at least 20 lives.

BY RICHARD CHIDZA/XOLISANI NCUBE

The police yesterday issued a ban on public gatherings in the capital following the declaration of the cholera outbreak as a state of emergency by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government on Tuesday.

“The Zimbabwe Republic Police wishes to inform members of the public that in light of the declaration of the state of emergency, the police in Harare will not allow any public gatherings,” police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said in a statement yesterday.

Asked to clarify if police were also banning church gatherings as well as funeral wakes, Charamba said anyone who would want to organise such events should seek clearance from the Health ministry.

“They would have to seek clearance from the Ministry of Health first, then we would have to act accordingly. Once a state of emergency has been declared, our job is to enforce the law and we will do just that,” she said.

On Monday, the police had given the greenlight to the opposition party to hold its 19th anniversary celebrations, where Chamisa is reportedly also been planning to use the occasion to stage a mock inauguration “of the people’s president” as part of his continuing protest against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s declaration of Mnangagwa as winner of the July 30 presidential poll.

The opposition will be celebrating the birth of the MDC, formed in September 1999. Since its formation, is has continuously posed the greatest threat to Zanu PF’s nearly four-decade stranglehold on power.

Newly-appointed MDC Alliance spokesperson Jacob Mafume said police had not officially responded to their application for the gathering.

“We have written to the police, but are yet to receive a response. We, however, think the ban is cynical and malicious to the situation given that they have been holding their functions as and when they want,” he said.

“It is imperative that we indicate that authorities have always seemed to find a reason to stop us from exercising our democratic right as citizens. They have the wherewithal to project a holier-than-thou attitude just to deal with the MDC.”

Chamisa yesterday visited the cholera ravaged suburbs in the capital so that he could get a first-hand appreciation of the calamity, which has so far claimed 21 lives and left 2 500 people hospitalised.

Accompanied by Harare mayor Herbert Gomba, senior party officials and city health officials, Chamisa visited Glen View Clinic, where cholera patients were being treated before he went to pay his condolences to families that had lost their loved ones to the epidemic.

“We really feel honoured and inspired by the work being done by our health personnel at this hour of need. Cholera is a disease which we should not be grappling with in this era of technology. It’s an embarrassment as a country that we are still fighting such kind of diseases,” Chamisa said.

He said government should act swiftly to tame the outbreak and urged Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo to stop politicking.