Opposition renews bid to unseat Mugabe: Chipo Shoko reports from harare on new tactics of mass protests by the opposition MDC to wrestle power from the government.

Author:Shoko, Chipo
Position::Around Africa: Zimbabwe - Movement for Democratic Change, Robert Mugabe

After a lull of nearly a year, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has resumed its bid to unseat President Robert Mugabe from power, this time not through the ballot box but via mass protests, using funding, according to the government, from Britain and USA.

Violence, including bombings and arson, rocked the country, particularly the capital Hasare, in mid-March during two days of a mass stayaway organised by the MDC in protest against "human rights violations and economic hardships".

Particularly targeted were public transport vehicles and commuter trains carrying workers who had ignored the strike call, bridges in strategic areas and offices of the ruling ZANU-PF party.

According to the government, the MDC paid private transport owners to withdraw their buses from the roads. MDC supporters resorted to unprecedented violence, so much so that serious incidents occurred in the central city of Kadoma where shops and bridges were bombed, while in the northern town of Chinhoyi, ZANU-PF offices were razed to the ground in a fire-bomb attack.

In the eastern city of Mutare, a major disaster was averted when an army bomb disposal unit disabled bombs planted at a government building, and removed objects on the Harare-Mutare rail track planted to derail a passenger train.

In Harare, some commuter buses were bombed to ashes, and roads barricaded. The security services later arrested more than 20 junior army deserters, whom they alleged, had been recruited by the MDC to carry out the bomb attacks, the intensity of which took the government and political analysts by surprise.

Yet, after all this violence, the US, which has imposed economic and other sanctions on Zimbabwe, hailed the strike as successful and peaceful". Which prompted the foreign minister, Stanley Mudenge to issue a statement on 1 April, saying: "The USA has hailed the event as a success and condemned the government for allegedly repressing the opposition and violating human rights. The facts on the ground testify that the above statement is a deliberate falsification of the truth about the event. To date, we know that over $1 billion worth of property was destroyed during the stay-away.

"The EU equally misrepresented and twisted the facts about the event in an attempt to portray the violent stay-away as having been successful," Mudenge added.

There is no doubt that the general strike was carefully planned and funded from abroad. The government has since fingered Britain...

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