Sunday, January 01, 2017

Year of Failed Protests and Political Cowards in Zimbabwe
Kuda Bwititi
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

For all its internal skirmishes, overstated reports of factionalism, frenzied twitter fights and many other in-house tiffs, the Zanu PF juggernaut still continued to dominate Zimbabwe’s political landscape in 2016.In comparison, the two so-called main opposition parties — the MDC-T and Zimbabwe People First — were so pathetic in 2016 that they seemed to be senselessly vying for a bronze medal in their own two-horse race!

The year began with what has come to be the obvious story at the beginning of the calendar — “President Mugabe has died”. The culprit this time around was bogus news website ZimEye, famed for fabricating stories.

Unfortunately, the story was picked up by other media organisations which later made embarrassing retractions over the false report. As it turned out, President Mugabe once again “resurrected from the dead” and came out in full force and was at his imperious best to chair the first cabinet meeting of 2016 and later the 21st February Movement celebrations in Masvingo.

The highly organised event was a huge success as President Mugabe proved that at 92, he is as fit as fiddle. In March, disgraced former Vice President Joice Mujuru launched her political party, Zimbabwe People First (ZPF). What a yawn!

It was such an uninspiring occasion that even those who sympathised with her were left disappointed and accepted the reality that she is just not cut for it. She was immediately bombarded with questions such as what new things do you have to offer when you were a member of the ruling party for 34 years?

Is your allegiance not with Zanu PF?

These were questions she dismally failed to answer for the remainder of the year as her party lacked a clear ideology to woo supporters.

Simply put, many people just do not trust the widow of the late General Solomon Mujuru. Not surprisingly, the launch saw a good number of western diplomats in attendance as it became all too apparent that her party sought to please them at all costs.

Then in April, the MDC-T held what it termed a demonstration against President Mugabe. The BBC estimated that 2000 people participated in the demonstrations that culminated into a rally at an open space near Rainbow Towers Hotel.

The MDC-T was to get a rude awakening the following month when the Zanu PF Youth League held the Million Man March, at virtually the same venue and attracted a humongous crowd that belittled the numbers that attended the opposition’s gathering.

Led by Kudzai Chipanga, the Million Man March was a resounding success and even President Mugabe himself was amazed at the massive crowd. The venue, Robert Mugabe Square near Rainbow towers hotel, proved to be too small as the record crowd bore testimony of Zanu PF’s prowess as a mean mobilising machine.

Figures of the number of people who attended the march could not be easily ascertained but what was clear was that the figure was manifold that of the 2 000 MDC supporters.

It was a huge political statement by Zanu PF and a stern warning to the opposition that they cannot match the ruling party when it comes to the game of mobilisation.

After it became clear that the opposition was losing the game of numbers, some shadowy groups linked to the opposition parties began a social media campaign to incite violence against Zanu PF.

Shadowy hashtags movement such as This Flag and Tajamuka desperately turned to social media, inciting people to protest against Government.

Notorious opposition activists also found an avenue through social media, spreading hate messages against the ruling party. The social media madness culminated in the so-called July 6 shutdown where some civil servants sought to protest over delays in payment of their June salaries.

With some civil servants having received their salaries late, while tensions between traffic police and kombi drivers had reached boiling point, the so-called shut-down also coincided with a stay way which was called for by representatives of Government workers.

The glory-seeking Evan Mawarire, a pastor who reportedly presided over a congregation of less than 40 people, claimed to be the brains behind the so-called shut-down In subsequent days, Mawarire continued to post videos inciting people to protest against Government, claiming that “hatityatyi” (we are no longer afraid).

Mawarire immediately became the new darling of the west, stealing the limelight from opposition parties which has clearly lost the trust of the people. With promises of donor funding seemingly inspiring him, Mawarire’s went into overdrive before he was arrested by the police and charged with inciting pubic violence.

Soon after his release, Mawarire did not stay in the country for long and sneaked into South Africa before later heading to the United States.

Scores of people who had been inspired by his “hatityatyi” mantra were left peeved that the man had sold them a dummy. To this day, Mawarire is still to return home as he and his family enjoys western hospitality in the United States.

While all this was happening, it seemed the nation had forgotten MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai. It emerged that the MDC-T leader’s health was deteriorating fast after he was diagnosed with cancer of the colon.

Rumours began to circulate that Mr Tsvangirai would not be able to stand in 2018 as a Presidential candidate owing to his failing health. In July, Mr Tsvangirai appointed Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri as his deputies, a decision that caused fissures within his already fragmented party.

Meanwhile, Mawarire seemed to be enjoying all the fame and leaders of opposition political parties were not amused.

It seemed the limelight was being taken away from them and to gain relevance, they formed the so-called National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) comprising of opposition political parties.

On August 25, Nera organised a demonstration under the guise of calling for electoral reforms. Youths aligned to the opposition parties unleashed a reign of terror during the demonstrations, looting from shops and vendors, stoning buildings and injuring innocent civilians.

In a clear attempt to capture international attention and put Zimbabwe on the spotlight, the demonstrators fought running battles with police and used paramilitary tactics which indicated that they could have received prior training.

As the demonstrations took place, some critics prematurely began to celebrate the demise of President Mugabe. One such critic, Ken Yamamoto, had this to say in an article that appeared online on August 10.

“But as I argue here, his (President Mugabe’s) days are numbered. He is finished. He will not be President of Zimbabwe by the end of 2017 at the very least. In fact, he will be lucky to remain President beyond December 2016.” The likes of Yamamoto and other critics were forced to eat humble pie as the President went beyond 2016.

Meanwhile, with the situation threatening to spiral out of control, Government took effective measures by introducing Statutory Instrument 101a of 2016, banning all demonstrations for two weeks, which was later extended for a longer period.

Police deserve credit for eventually crashing the demonstrations which were threatening the country’s security.

The year ended on a high when Zanu PF hosted its 16th National Annual People’s Conference some weeks back.

Dubbed “the best conference ever”, a record 9 000 delegates attended the gathering and reaffirmed President Mugabe as the party’s Presidential candidate for the 2018 elections.

The conference also tackled the economy with Cabinet Ministers laying out their targets under the ZimAsset economic blueprint.

While factionalism and internal bickering are common vices in the party, the conference proved that under President Mugabe, Zanu-PF remains united and will continue to dominate the political arena for years to come.

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