Monday, September 04, 2006

Tsvangirai surprise march surprisingly late

Anti Senate leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his executives "surprised" police and Zimbabwean authorities when they marched from their party's national headquarters to the parliament building on Friday. Reports of the event can be found here, here, and here.

There are many differences in the accounts of the march from the various media outlets that reported the event as has become the standard for any public event held by the MDC either at home or abroad. The most contested fact is the number of public protestors that joined the fray; some reports claim it was 1 000 people and others say it was just 500. Despite this, the reports find common ground in the much celebrated fact that both the police and parliamentary authorities where caught "flat footed" by the march.

Under Zimbabwe's oppressive regime and conditions, there's no doubt Tsvangirai needed to employ the element of surprise to succesfully hold any public protest. Zimbabwean authorities are notorious for unleashing brutal police and military force on their own civilian protestors. Like the British, Zimbabweans enjoy no protection for the freedom of expression. In this sense, the suprise was both neccesary and positive.

But I couldn't help feeling unsettled at just how surprising the march was to Zimbabwe's authorities. What surprises me is that police don't percieve MDC to be viable threat so they've essentially stopped monitoring the part looking elsewhere for undrest threats to the state. This despite Tsvangirai's insistant protestations that this winter was going to be a "winter of discontent." With Zimbabwe's winter gone and no protests led by the MDC, it's surprising that the police or other government authories weren't expecting the march. It is clear how low on the threat matrix Tsvangirai is. That is disturbing.

Immediately following the march, the faction's publicity and information secretary Nelson Chamisa issued a statement tauting the "success" of the event which read in part,
Today’s occasion was just but a warning shot; a harbinger of more protracted, nationwide and decentralized response by the people of Zimbabwe to express their need for a free, prosperous and democratic society.

Today’s occasion was an expression by the MDC President and the leadership of their commitment to lead from the front in the people’s struggle for a new Zimbabwe. The response of the people was overwhelming as they gave thumbs up to the gesture by the leadership. The nation is ripe for change. A new Zimbabwe is obvious.
Judging from the "winter of discontent" track record whether we're on the verge of a "protracted" struggle towards the demise of the Mugabe regime is still very much in the air.

The most important thing though is that they actually did something. For months, and even years some of us have ponitificated on the status quo but have zero action to back up our verbage. History will laud the MDC for taking some kind of action directly against the regime that has visit so much distress on our people.

As to whether this march was really about "firing warning shots," well, the jury is still out on that one.

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