The National Patriotic Front (NPF) — which has the blessings of ousted former president Robert Mugabe — yesterday threw its weight behind the MDC Alliance in its protest march against what it perceives as the slow pace of electoral reforms ahead of the July 30 vote.
The development came as thousands of MDC Alliance supporters poured into the capital city’s streets yesterday, demanding urgent steps to make even the political playing field — currently tilted in favour of Zanu PF.
Alliance members want the forthcoming polls to be conducted in full compliance with the Constitution, the Electoral Act, the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) principles and guidelines guiding democratic elections and the African Union (AU) Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
A grouping of seven opposition political parties, the alliance intends to participate in the 2018 harmonised elections under the leadership of Nelson Chamisa of the main MDC party, formed in 1999.
Giving a solidarity message at the end of the demonstration yesterday, NPF spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire said their party was fully behind Chamisa.
“You all know that our party was formed from the G40 (Generation 40) faction in Zanu PF and we are saying let the young lead so this is the time for Chamisa to become president not (Emmerson) Mnangagwa who imposed himself on the people through a coup. Do not worry about security agents because we have them in our ranks,” Mawarire said to thunderous applauses from the crowd.
A former army brigadier and a veteran of the 1970s war against white minority rule, Ambrose Mutinhiri, who quit Zanu PF to protest the removal of Mugabe in a soft coup, formed the NPF but it has failed to gain traction on the ground.
Mawarire’s address gave grit to widespread talk that the MDC Alliance could join forces with the NPF to enhance their chances of winning the forthcoming polls.
Thousands of MDC Alliance demonstrators, most of them dressed in red, assembled in front of Parliament in a public square called Africa Unity Square, waving placards and demanding wide-sweeping electoral reforms and free and fair elections, before marching to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) headquarters.
Dressed in a red overall and helmet, Chamisa led the walk from Africa Unity Square to Zec offices.
He later addressed the bumper crowd at Africa Unity Square after presenting a petition to Zec demanding among, other things, that the company printing ballot papers be made public and that the ballot papers be subjected to a forensic audit to ascertain its chemical composition.
Chamisa said his party will continue to step up pressure until the polling day.
“With the numbers we have attracted here, we have made a statement that has been heard all over the world, in America, in Britain that we have said no to a rigged election,” Chamisa said, thanking the multitudes that turned out.
“You have not disappointed and even Zec officials wanted to know where we got such numbers but I told them these are the people on the voters’ roll, they want their votes to be secure.
“We are going to go national, all the urban centres: Bulawayo, Masvingo, Mutare, Bindura Marondera and all rural areas to make sure we involve everyone.”
Chamisa rubbished Zanu PF claims that the demo betrayed fear of an impending poll defeat at the hands of Mnangagwa, 75.
“We are doing this not because we are afraid of elections, we are doing it because we love Mnangagwa and we don’t want him to cheat himself to power because he will have cheated us all.
“I asked for a meeting with him (Mnangagwa) but he refused and I warned him that I was going to bring the people (out into the streets).
“We will do this every day until we get reforms. We will get to a point where it becomes necessary that we stop all the processes. We are prepared to do whatever is necessary to achieve what we want — free and fair elections.
“Mnangagwa sent me a message demanding to know where I was getting the courage to do this and I told him that God is behind my actions. We have since won this election and Mnangagwa knows this,” he declared.
The former ICT minister also explained that while Mnangagwa has since proclaimed a poll date which means that no changes can now be made to the Electoral Act for the purposes of this election, what he is demanding has nothing to do with the law, saying it is administrative.
“Of course, there are those who mislead people saying that we failed to push our demands in Parliament, so it is no longer possible because the dates have been announced.
“What we are demanding has nothing to do with Parliament. We failed to agree on the Electoral Act in Parliament but now what we are calling for is an administrative issue which only requires political will. They cannot argue that the issue of ballot boxes is a security issue when they are having access,” the 40-year-old presidential candidate said.
He said he was going to meet South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is the Sadc chairperson, as well as heads of the AU to brief them on his party’s minimum expectations for the polls.
“From here, I am going to meet with the Sadc chair Cyril Ramaphosa and the AU to impress upon them that we will not accept a rigged election.
“We want to make sure that the voters’ roll is audited so that there are no ghost voters and if that is done, then we will accept whoever wins the election only that I cannot congratulate myself because I will have won. I expect Mnangagwa to congratulate me,” Chamisa said.
He also demanded what he termed “chlorination of the Zec secretariat” to ensure that people with a military background, whom he accused of serving Zanu PF interests, are uprooted from the election commission.
Chamisa demanded equal media coverage, slamming the State media for giving him adverse coverage.
“We want the public media to be objective but ZBC is pathetic. We don’t want any favours from them but they must just report what is happening truthfully. If they give live coverage to Mnangagwa, the same must apply to Chamisa.
“We don’t want our army to be abused. Why are you deploying the army against a political party? We are not at war, and we are brothers who are merely competing for power.”
The Kuwadzana East legislator paid tribute to the Zimbabwe Republic Police for its “professional conduct” during the march that took them to Zec offices and back without incident.
“We want to thank the police for behaving well. That was professional, so we must acknowledge that because we don’t want to just criticise for the sake of it. We must give credit where it is due,” Chamisa said.
The MDC has previously accused the police of being partisan and heavy-handed when dealing with opposition protesters.