Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has strong roots in Zimbabwe’s urban areas, which have borne the brunt of a political and economic crisis blamed on President Robert Mugabe’s government.
An energetic Tsvangirai told about 15,000-20,000 supporters at a major campaign rally in one of Harare’s oldest and poorest townships that his MDC party would not surrender the capital to ZANU-PF in Thursday’s parliamentary polls.
“Harare will never be ZANU-PF again,” Tsvangirai said to wild cheers from the crowd. “The choice is very simple on Thursday. You are being asked to choose between thieves, thugs and murderers, and people who want to take Zimbabwe children to the promised land.”
ZANU-PF lost all the parliamentary seats in Harare to the MDC five years ago, but is campaigning hard to regain them.
Harare is facing a collapsing sewerage and transport system, water and electricity shortages and unrepaired roads, a picture replicated in almost all the country’s towns.
The labour-backed MDC says the urban councils it controls have been starved of government funds and denied the right to borrow funds or raise taxes to run efficient services.
Zimbabweans have known only
Pacing up and down on a wooden podium in the middle of an open field, Tsvangirai dismissed Mugabe’s promises to ease transport problems in the capital by introducing commuter trains as cheap talk that surfaced every election time.
Tsvangirai urged supporters to turn their backs on ZANU-PF’s pleas for another chance, saying the ruling party had already wasted 25 years.
“What are they going to do that they have failed to do in 25 years? We have a plan and programme to put things right. We have the keys to open up manufacturing and create jobs,” he said.
Once the breadbasket of the southern African region, Zimbabwe’s economy has shrunk by about 30% in the last five years and four in every five people is unemployed. Fuel, medicines and foreign currency are in short supply.
High inflation rate
The country’s inflation rate of 127% is one of the highest in the world. The Zimbabwean dollar has fallen in value to around 6200 to the US dollar from a fixed rate of 37 in 2000, but trades at twice the official rate on the black market.
“Harare will never be ZANU-PF again”
“Mugabe says he is the only one who can manage the economy. We tell him that this is the only economy where we have millionaires who are poor,” Tsvangirai said.
He accused Mugabe of running an administration that he said had no respect for the rule of law and property rights
-a state of affairs which he said would not be tolerated by the MDC if it came to power.
Tsvangirai condemned Mugabe’s land-reform programme, which he said was fraught with corruption, as well as the barring of non-governmental organisations from distributing food.
“The NGOs have to come back. We have a drought and people are starving,” he said, deriding Mugabe’s predictions last year that the country was expecting a bumper harvest.
Mugabe has since acknowledged that Zimbabwe is facing food shortages.
The MDC remains strong in urban areas and is expected to retain most of the urban parliamentary seats in Thursday’s vote.