President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change formations led by Prime Minister (PM) Morgan Tsvangirai and Industry Minister Welshman Ncube (MDC-T and MDC) are haggling over campaigns for the national constitutional referendum in yet another show of the fractured nature of the four-year-old inclusive government.
With the referendum just over a week away, officials from the three parties were yesterday throwing brickbats at each other after Ncube's MDC pulled out of the campaign while PM Tsvangirai's planned campaign in Harare's Highfield suburb was blocked by riot police who said it had not been sanctioned.
The police action triggered criticism against ZANU-PF which was accused of using the police to intimidate and humiliate the PM and his party despite the existence of a common front forged to campaign for the adoption of the new constitution.
PM Tsvangirai was barred by over 40 police officers in riot gear from holding a YES vote campaign rally, with the law enforcement agents saying that he had not been cleared under the draconian Public Order and Security Act to hold the event.
Before that, Ncube's MDC had pulled out of the campaign over the weekend after complaining that their inclusive government partners were sidelining his party from the exercise, only restricting Ncube's party to events in two of the country's 10 provinces. The three political parties seem to have realised that the publicity campaigns are an opportunity to endear themselves with the electorate ahead of harmonised elections which PM Tsvangirai has said will be held in July.
Sources in the two MDCs said they had contacted the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) facilitation team led by South Africa President Jacob Zuma, to register their displeasure with the unfolding situation in the country. They alleged that ZANU-PF was not sincere in its pledge for free and fair elections.
Nelson Chamisa, MDC-T national organising secretary, expressed dismay at the police conduct, saying that if this could happen in an environment where the parties are in agreement, what more when they start campaigning for elections?
"If it is like this on the referendum where people are in agreement, what about the elections where people will be preaching different gospels?" asked Chamisa.
Dismissing Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba's claim that the police action was a result of a breakdown in communication, Chamisa said in light of the banning of Tuesday's rally, it was clear that the inclusive government had "some challenges and serious clashes of civilisation and values".
Charamba told The Financial Gazette that the police and MDC-T officials on the ground had not communicated well.
"There was a communication breakdown. There was no link between the people on the ground. I am sure today they will have their rally," said Charamba.
But Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, the MDC secretary general, said the current clashes were similar to those witnessed throughout the constitution-making exercise.
"If you have somebody operating in the manner that ZANU-PF is doing, you cannot continue smiling at them. Right from the beginning in COPAC, we have been abused," charged Misihairabwi-Mushonga.
She said that her party pulled out from the publicity campaigns because ZANU-PF and MDC-T had conspired to sideline them by restricting her party to only two provinces.
"They allocated us two provinces because they said we are only two people in the select committee, but this is a publicity campaign where even our legislators can take part. We know it is a money making business for some of them. We asked them to accommodate our Members of Parliament and they refused," said Misihairabwi-Mushonga.
She said this was a clear indication that there was a political agenda in the publicity campaigns. Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the banning of PM Tsvangirai's Tuesday event was "the MDC-T reaping what they had sowed".
"We have said it before. MDC-T is reaping what they sowed. This is like when a slave thinks he is a better slave than other slaves, forgetting that a slave is always a slave. MDC-T was complicit in sidelining us. What is good for the goose is good for the gander," remarked Misiha-irabwi-Mushonga.
She confirmed that her party had met with Zuma's facilitation team but did not divulge the results of that meeting, choosing to highlight that there are many violations of the Global Political Agreement such as the emergence of violence and the arbitrary appointment of Rita Makarau and Jacob Mudenda to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the Human Rights Comm-ission respectively.
Spokesperson of Zu-ma's facilitation team, Lindiwe Zulu, was not reachable yesterday as her phone repeatedly went to voicemail.
ZANU-PF's spokespe-rson Rugare Gumbo could also not be reached for comment. But Gumbo told The Financial Gazette last week that the MDCs wanted to paint an ugly picture so that they could discredit forthcoming harmonised elections.