THE opposition MDC-T party’s leader has challenged President Robert Mugabe to “bring on the military and we meet in the streets”, warning that any attempt to use the country’s security forces to drive out informal traders will be “strongly resisted”.
An army general warned vendors that they would have the military to deal with if they ignored an order by local government minister Ignatius Chombo to vacate city centres.
The government later backtracked; with defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi saying the army would not be involved while the High Court also made clear that this was no province for the military.
Still, presenting his “State of the Nation” address to hundreds of supporters gathered at the Exhibition Park in Harare Saturday, Morgan Tsvangirai accused Mugabe of turning the security services sector into the “greatest danger to the safety of Zimbabweans”.
“Our streets are teeming with millions of Zimbabweans seeking to earn a living in these harsh economic times characterized by job losses and an unemployment rate of 90 percent,” he said.
“As it becomes apparent that the Zanu PF campaign promise to create two million jobs was just an election gimmick, the streets have provided sanctuary to the many unemployed Zimbabweans seeking to earn a living.
“This is a ticking time bomb and a threat to national stability. The only viable solution is to create employment as opposed to threatening vendors on our streets with gunpowder. They simply want jobs and not bullets!”
The former prime minister warned Mugabe and his government against using the security services to “hound vendors off the streets”.
“Any idea of using the military and other arms of the security services against vendors will be resisted,” said Tsvangirai.
“We say to Mugabe bring on the army and we will meet in the streets.
“Let me remove any doubt from your minds, any attempts by the regime to mount a second “Murambatsvina” will be strongly resisted and the MDC commits itself to the protection of all informal business persons.”
“The threat by the government to deploy soldiers to violently hound out vendors from the streets and the abduction of Itai Dzamara by State security agents have brought back the debate on the security of citizens in this country,” the opposition leader added to applause from supporters.
Tsvangirai relived the sordid events of June 27, 2008 that saw Mugabe, after losing the first round of voting to the veteran opposition leader, force through a blood-splattered run-off poll in which hundreds were killed and maimed while thousands were displaced by a combination of the army and Zanu PF militia.
“We find ourselves in the ironic position where we are not safe in our own country,” he said.
“Zimbabweans are in the invidious position of being unsafe both in South Africa where others recently suffered xenophobic attacks, and even in their own country, where only last week innocent citizens in Gutu, Masvingo were violently driven out by soldiers from land they occupied in 2000.
“That is unacceptable!”
The MDC-T leader however, said he was certain the security services “themselves do not harbour any ill-intentions against their fellow citizens”.
“They are a patriotic sector that is just abused by the State. In any case, most of them are under the age of 40 and have nothing to do with the power retention agenda of this government,” he said.
“Our soldiers, police officers and members of the intelligence services are professionals who want better working and living conditions like all of us.
“Left to their own desires, they would not harass anyone. They want decent salaries, better working conditions and decent uniforms.
“Like the rest of the citizenry, they also want a new Zimbabwe; a country where they would be able to prosper and to pursue and live their dreams.”
Tsvangirai said since the 2013 elections which followed the dissolution of the Inclusive Government of which he was premier, Mugabe had presided over “a reversal of the gains we made in social delivery”.