Lawson Mabhena News and Politics Editor
The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) has urged MDC-Alliance to put in place strategies to ensure demonstrations called for on August 16 do not degenerate into violence.
In a statement, Commissioner Lilian Chigwedere said while the NPRC recognised the constitutional right to demonstrate, this right must only be exercised peacefully.
The MDC-Alliance has already served notice to the police for the demonstration as is required by law.
There are fears that the demonstrations will turn violent as MDC-Alliance leaders have been inciting their supporters on social media and at rallies.
Said MDC-Alliance leader Mr Nelson Chamisa in a video posted on social media to prop up support for the demonstrations recently: “Faith without works is dead. It is now time for us to be our own liberators.”
Although the MDC has previously denied instigating and coordinating public violence, especially on August 1, 2018 and January 14 to 16 this year, the party’s leadership is on record inciting violence and hate through social media and at public rallies.
Some members of the party and affiliate organisations have since appeared in court for seeking to unleash a wave of violent demonstrations, with ring leaders of civil unrest having received training in the Czech Republic and the Maldives in May.
Comm Chigwedere said the NPRC urged restraint, while also imploring the Zanu-PF Youth League to avoid confrontation with demonstrators.
“The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) has taken note of the call by the Movement for Democratic Change for public demonstrations in Harare to protest ‘for a resolution of the current challenges facing the people of Zimbabwe’,” she said.
“The NPRC recognises the constitutional right of persons and institutions to demonstrate and present petitions as long as these rights are exercised peacefully.
“To this end, the Commission calls upon the leadership of MDC to implore their members to exercise restraint and to put in place strategies and plans to ensure that the demonstrations do not degenerate into violent conflict.
“The Commission also notes a statement being attributed to the Zanu-PF Youth League leadership regarding the proposed demonstration and urges all political parties to restrain all their organs so that no one advocates for violent confrontation against members of other political formations.”
Comm Chigwedere called on the MDC-Alliance and other political parties to be mindful of the impact of violence on vulnerable members of society.
“The NPRC is concerned that where protests have previously become confrontational; people with disabilities, women, children and the elderly have been caught up in the violent web with neither means nor ways to protect themselves,” she said.
“Some have had their assistive devices forcefully taken away from them, leaving them badly exposed to the violence. All parties are, therefore, urged to take particular care to protect this key population from injury or harm.”
Comm Chigwedere said the Commission was engaging stakeholders, including the police, to ensure that the demonstrations were carried out constitutionally and peacefully.
“The Commission notes the police service’s constitutional functions to prevent crime, preserve security, protect lives and property, maintain law and order and enforce the law without fear or favour,” she said.
“The NPRC urges the police service to facilitate that those going about their normal business continue to do so without hindrance and that; should there be need to exercise its powers, efforts be made to guarantee that the rights of persons are respected so as to safeguard further inflammation of violence.
“The Commission recognises that conflicts are an inevitable part of our daily lives, but parties can achieve win-win solutions if they actively work towards dialoguing with each other.”