Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, on Friday said his party could roll out protests against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s government over its inability to improve the country’s flagging economy.
Tsvangirai has led the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) since 1999 and in April sacked his secretary-general, who was calling for the former Zimbabwean prime minister to step down after losing a third election to Mugabe last year. Some Western observers say the poll was rigged.
Tsvangirai, a former trade union leader, said the African country had an unsustainably high unemployment rate, estimated at above 80 percent, which forced many people into informal employment.
After posting strong growth during four years of Mugabe and Tsvangirai’s unity government between 2009 and last year, the economy is suffering a dollar crunch due to lack of foreign investment, forcing many firms to shut down or keep workers without pay.
“We are going to mobilize. The form and content is left to the MDC to plan and execute,” Tsvangirai told journalists.
A senior party official told reporters that mass protests are “very much an option.”
Previous anti-Mugabe protests — the last of which occurred in 2007 — have been met by a heavy police and military resistance, but Tsvangirai said the veteran leader would be making a mistake by setting security forces against the public.
“Let him be warned that if we cannot live as free men and women in our country of birth, we will rather die as free people,” Tsvangirai said.
However, Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) spokesman Rugare Gumbo said Harare’s security forces would deal with any protests.
“We have our security forces which are fully equipped to deal with that, so we are not worried about anything,” the spokesman for the ruling party said.
In a letter seen by media on Friday, Tsvangirai warned leaders of the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) that they should “take seriously our position on the developments in this country, which developments are slowly gravitating towards an inevitable implosion.”
‘LINE IN SAND’
“We in the MDC are drawing a line in the sand and we hereby inform our colleagues in SADC, well in advance, that the people of Zimbabwe shall be writing their own script for an endgame to the struggle for freedom and democracy,” he said.
Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, began a year-long run as chairman of the regional group last week.
Tsvangirai, who ran in the last election under a cloud of sex scandals, said his party would not participate in future elections until there were changes to the rules, as well as a credible voter register.
The next elections are scheduled for 2018.
Fear has largely undermined previous efforts by the opposition to confront Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and it is unclear if the opposition party can convince the public to mobilize, political analysts say.
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