MDC leader Nelson Chamisa. Picture: TIMESLIVE
MDC leader Nelson Chamisa. Picture: TIMESLIVE

Tension gripped Harare on Wednesday after the opposition MDC Alliance said it would hold a large demonstration on Thursday to protest against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s austerity measures.

Thursday’s street march, to be led by MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa, is set to be the first major opposition demonstration in Harare since the August 1 post-election protests that culminated in a ruthless military crackdown in which at least six people were killed.

The governing Zanu PF youth league members were planning counter moves to disturb the demonstration, raising more tension ahead of the protest. Leader Pupurai Togarepi said on Tuesday night that his organisation would safeguard its the property against any harm.

"Any attempt to destroy property belonging to the party will not be taken lightly. For the moment, we are protecting our property and I hope nobody will provoke us into any confrontation,” he warned.

Zimbabweans are increasingly getting frustrated by an unemployment rate of more that 90%, increased taxes, high inflation and an acute shortage of drugs. 

On Wednesday, fuel shortages resurfaced in Harare and queues for diesel and petrol stretched for kilometers, further disillusioning the public.

The country recorded its highest inflation since 2008 in October at 24%. The new tax measures announced in last week's national budget could result in yet another wave of price increases.

Observers said the protest had been strategically planned for November to coincide with the first anniversary of the fall of Robert Mugabe, who resigned after massive street protests that were preceded by a brief military coup.

Addressing journalists in Harare on Wednesday, MDC Alliance spokesperson Jacob Mafume said the demonstration would go ahead as planned on Thursday.

“We are planning a demonstration as you know and we have received the necessary approval. We have notified the police," Mafume said.

Mnangagwa has refused to engage with Chamisa on a possible government of national unity, which many citizens believe is the best solution to stem economic challenges that worsened after the hotly disputed election.

Mafume said the aim of the protest march was to push Mnangagwa to agree to dialogue with the opposition so they can collectively address the worsening economy.

“It is not only an MDC demonstration but a people’s demonstration. We are dealing with bread and butter issues that affect people’s everyday life. We have the usurious 2% tax that affects the people’s lives.

"We have the various exercise duties that have been put on diesel and petrol which will lead to inflation and price increases. We have shortages of almost everything including the bond note (surrogate local currency) has dramatically failed as an instrument of the economy," Mafume said.

“We have shortages of drugs, we have the use of the US dollar for payment of duty for vehicle imports. We need a solution as a people because we are seeking a route to legitimacy a route to political dialogue.”

Mafume encouraged demonstrators to wear white attire to symbolise the message of peace during the demonstration.

MDC Alliance organising secretary Amos Chibaya promised to take necessary action to ensure that there would be no violence during the march.

On Tuesday, Mnangagwa’s spokesperson, George Charamba, sent a chilling warning to the demonstrators that the MDC Alliance would be held accountable for any loss of life or damage to property.

However, he said the demonstration had been given the nod by the government.