Harare — In an unprecedented development, a protest by the opposition in Zimbabwe has proceeded without a clampdown by government.
The peaceful march in Harare by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on Tuesday represents a huge step by the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa in embracing dissenting voices.
It is in stark contrast to the heavy-handed response to opposition protest by the administration of toppled leader, Robert Mugabe, whose government endorsed police actions to violently disperse protests by the opposition and arresting rival leaders.
Critics were jailed.
The MDC took to the streets of the capital on Tuesday demanding the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) implement a number of electoral reforms before polls that are set for 30 July.
The biggest threat to the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front's (ZANU-PF's) stranglehold on power since independence in 1980, the MDC argues electoral authorities are biased in favour of the ruling party.
Nelson Chamisa, the leader of a faction MDC, heaped praise on the police force after the march proceeded without the usual heavy-handedness.
"Let's give credit where it is due," the opposition candidate said.
"The Zimbabwe Republic Police did a good job today (Tuesday). We have done our march without incidents," Chamisa said.
Mnangagwa said the uninterrupted MDC demonstration was a sign the opposition was enjoying democracy in the country.
"Every person has the right to demonstrate and to present petitions, but these rights must be exercised peacefully," Mnangagwa told journalists at State House.
He spoke after meeting Brahim Ghali, president of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.
Mnangagwa, in response to MDC grievances, said he had recently signed into law the reforms relating to the Electoral Act aimed at leveling the political field.
Youths from the ZANU-PF were on Wednesday scheduled to stage their own march in solidarity with the government and president Mnangagwa for the prevailing peaceful political atmosphere and economic reforms in the country.