POLICE yesterday sealed off Gweru after banning a demonstration organised by the MDC with the opposition party making a climbdown on its earlier position to defy the prohibition order.
The party, which has threatened to roll out countrywide protests against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, indicated that it would soon change its tact following a heavy security clampdown on its recent protests.
In a letter addressed to the MDC Midlands provincial secretary Lazarus Chacha, police officer commanding Gweru district, Chief Superintendent Tsitsi Chikono said she did not accede to the holding of the demonstration.
“This office acknowledges receipt of your notice to hold (a) public demonstration, dated August 8 2019. This office is not in support of your notice,” the letter read.
Informal traders opened late in the day after gauging the security mood in central Gweru, while trucks carrying armed riot police patrolled the city and suburbs such as Mkoba which have been hotspots in previous protests. Roadblocks were also mounted along roads leading into the city.
Sources told Southern Eye yesterday that the MDC provincial leaders were debating behind the scenes on whether to appeal to the court or try other means of protests such as civil disobedience and stayaways.
“There is a feeling that it is not necessary to go to the magistrates court to appeal since the Bulawayo application was thrown out and the High Court also turned down overtures by the party in Harare after similar circumstances,” the source said.
Takavafira Zhou, the MDC Midlands provincial spokesperson, said consultations are still being made among leaders on the way forward after the police ban, but also hinted a position not to appeal is likely to be made.
“I think there has already been a precedent that has been set after both the High Court in Harare and the magistrates court in Bulawayo threw out our appeals. So it’s like you go to court already knowing the verdict because there will always be reference to these past two verdicts,” he said.
“We certainly need to change our strategy and tactics. Conducting a demonstration is one option that has left us vulnerable to the might of Zanu PF as it is able to concentrate its forces and totally cripple our quest for democratic expression through manipulation of the law, force or naked violence and thuggery.
“Henceforth, we need to consider elements of diversion, surprise, spontaneity in various areas in order to guarantee success. The cause of liberty should not be surrendered, even at the last moment of defeat. Defeat is just temporary, but giving up makes it permanent,” Zhou said.
Josiah Makombe, the MDC Midlands provincial chairperson, said a final position on the way forward would be announced at a Press conference today.