Civic groups mull protest marches

HARARE – Human rights and pro-democracy groups have warned that they will soon stage protest marches to force President Robert Mugabe to halt the nation-wide violence perpetrated by his supporters.\r\n

Mugabe’s supporters have swamped Harare’s poor townships where they have launched violent campaigns against supporters of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party.

Thousands of MDC supporters have been displaced and are living in safehouses although some of them have been raided by government intelligence agents.

“We have agreed to confront the inclusive government if our advocacy and lobbying fail. There is the coming together of pro-democracy groups and there is consensus that we must revert to our strategy of 2007 which brought results,” spokesman of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Phillip Pasirayi told the Daily News.

On March 11, 2007, the civic society groups staged prayer marches in Harare’s Highfield township which were violently crushed by armed police.

The marches were organised by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition under the auspices of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign.

Tsvangirai and a number of civic society leaders were severely assaulted by police, prompting Sadc leaders to convene an emergency summit in Tanzania to try and resolve the Zimbabwean crisis.

The Dar-es-Salaam summit tasked former South African leader Thabo Mbeki who brokered the power sharing deal which led to the formation of the inclusive government.

“We believe that the government is not taking us seriously. That’s why we have agreed to come together and map this strategy,” said Pasirayi.

The civic society groups which make the Coalition in Zimbabwe Crisis include women, youths and church organisations.

They want President Jacob Zuma as facilitator of the power sharing deal to force Mugabe to end the violence against his opponents.

Zuma’s mediation team is expected in Zimbabwe this week to meet the negotiators in what are fast becoming fruitless sojourns to Harare.

Tsvangirai has said Mugabe as commander-in-chief of the defence forces, is responsible for the violence.

“We have a structure where we have a commander-in-chief who purports not to know what is happening, but indirectly orders the army to act.

The buck stops with Mugabe. If they (uniformed forces) defy his orders against violence, then we can say we have a coup in the country and I don’t believe there is one," said Tsvangirai.

Pasirayi said Zuma should be made aware of the developments in Zimbabwe and weigh them against claims that the country is ready to conduct free and fair elections in 2011.

“He must be made aware that there is no peace in Zimbabwe, it is being disturbed by the military,” said Pasirayi. “What we are saying is that this country is not ready for elections.”

Zuma, said Pasirayi, should effectively declare that conditions currently prevailing are not conducive for democratic elections.

“These should include among others dealing with violence and intimidation of citizens and the removal of impediments to democratic expression such as repressive laws and unprofessional and partisan conduct by the justice system.”

Despite the political parties meeting in Harare a fortnight ago in a joint session held under the National Security Council banner, violence has continued to rock Harare.

Police claim one person died in  Mbare last week when violent youths attacked a man coming  from Matute bar allegedly for wrong “sloganeering”.

Although Zanu PF has condemned the violence, its critics say the liberation movement is behind the orgy that has made Mbare a “lions den” at night. – Daily News