New Zimbabwe (London)

24 May 2014

Zimbabwe: Police Ban MDC-T Rally, Reverse Decision

POLICE have been forced into a last minute overturn of a contentious ban they had imposed Saturday on an MDC-T star rally which party leader Morgan Tsvangirai was due to address at the symbolic Zimbabwe Grounds in Harare's Highfields suburb on Sunday.

Tsvangirai has earmarked the event to present his perspective on Africa Day.

But police Chief Superintendent Garikai Gwangwava, the officer commanding Harare South District Saturday wrote to the MDC-T notifying them of the ban.

Police further cited the shortage of manpower to cover what they felt was a potentially volatile event.

"...my office would like to advise you that police will not be able to provide officers to cover your rally considering that the day will be a Sunday and public holiday," read Gwangwava's letter.

Gwangwava also cited the recent skirmishes which rocked a party rally in Harare's sprawling settlement of Epworth where MDC-T youths clashed with Zanu PF supporters resulting in casualty on both sides.

The police boss went on to tell the MDC-T to reschedule the rally to a later date "which is not a public holiday or a Sunday".

But a follow-up with the party organising secretary Nelson Chamisa Saturday evening revealed police had reversed the unpopular decision.

"That has been sorted out, the rally is going ahead," Chamisa said.

"In fact after the ban we went to them and made some presentations and they said we can go ahead."

In a recent statement, the MDC-T said Tsvangirai's Africa day address "will centre on the challenges and acute deficits on the political, governance and economic front that most African States continue to face decades after successful liberation struggles".

"President Tsvangirai's address will also locate Zimbabwe in the context of Africa's struggle for democracy, freedom, prosperity and the dignity of her citizens," said the MDC-T.

The police decision to allow the rally to proceed paves way for what the party hopes shall be a huge show of support for the embattled but popular opposition leader.

The party has split into two bitter factions with party secretary general Tendai Biti leading a group of party hawks who want the MDC-T's founding leader to relinquish a post he has held since the party's formation 1999.

Following the apparent split, both sides have been involved into verbal exchanges through the country's media with Tsvangirai first to display some edge over his erstwhile aide through well attended rallies he has been holding countrywide.

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