MDC leader Nelson Chamisa chickened out of his planned Kwekwe rally yesterday, saying he will abide by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP)’s decision to prohibit the gathering in a bid to contain the spread of typhoid in the Midlands Province.
Chamisa had notified the ZRP about the rally as is required by the law, but the police could not give him the go-ahead citing the recent outbreak of typhoid in Gweru, about 67 kilometres from Kwekwe.
As of August 8, at least 10 people had died of typhoid in Gweru since the start of the outbreak the previous month.
About 400 cases had been treated at the time.
The MDC leader had vowed to go ahead with his first rally since he narrowly lost the July 30 plebiscite to President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zanu PF, accusing the police of double standards.
But in a dramatic U-turn, the MDC has had a change of heart and has now rescheduled the rally to next week.
“The police cited the outbreak of typhoid so we have cancelled the Kwekwe rally and we will hold another one next week at a different venue although we are aware that it was a deliberate strategy to stop us from exercising our constitutional right of assembly,” said the MDC’s deputy national chairperson, Morgen Komichi.
The rallies, to be held throughout the country, are meant afford Chamisa an opportunity to consult his supporters on the way forward in the wake of the July 30 disputed elections, which he says were rigged in Mnangagwa’s favour.
The rallies are also meant to thank his supports for voting for him.
Ironically, Mnangagwa is also planning to go around the country to thank his supporters.
Meanwhile, Chamisa has warned newly-elected MDC Members of Parliament and councillors against engaging in corruption, saying those found wanting would be “ruthlessly” dealt with.
“To all our MPs and councillors, I urge you to perform at the highest level of excellence,” Chamisa said in his message to the MDC structures and elected officials soon after the party’s national council meeting last week.
“Resist and shun corruption and arrogance. We will deal ruthlessly with the corrupt and lazy ones. Have a schedule of events for engaging communities, your constituencies and wards frequently and with regularity.
“Avoid being missing persons (MPs).Please meet the voters and thank them. Let us also start meaningful livelihoods and upliftment projects in your constituencies to impact and improve people’s lives,” Chamisa emphasised.
The MDC has been blamed for running down local authorities especially urban councils they have dominion over.
In 2008, the late MDC founding president Morgan Tsvangirai was forced to sack the entire Chitungwiza council for corruption involving illegal parcelling out of residential stands for themselves at a time when service delivery in the dormitory town had hit its lowest ebb.
The party has also been criticised for not actively pushing for electoral reforms only to demand them towards elections.
Chamisa said he was happy that the party widened its support base as evidenced by the fact that its MPs in Parliament increased from 41 in 2013 to 88 (inclusive of 24 women proportional representatives).
The party controls over 26 urban councils out of 32, representing 81 percent.
It won 536 council seats.
“Our presidential election campaign was massive and won the popular vote. We won this election and won it resoundingly with 2,6 million people voting for us. Even on Zec’s announced totals, this is the best tally our party has ever produced. It is also a significant increase with about a million votes from our previous best tally even by Zec’s own figures,” he said.
He admitted that the party fell short in terms of choosing candidates for both the national assembly and local government elections.
“Despite some challenges that arose during the nominations where in some areas we had more than one candidate, we tried our best to resolve others but we must certainly improve on our internal democracy and electoral processes, now and in the future,” he said.