POLICE in Gwanda have cancelled campaign rallies for the two MDC formations, giving first preference to President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF, in a move that has irked the rival political parties.
Nqobile Bhebhe / Pamela Mhlanga
Mugabe, who has embarked on a countrywide campaign to drum up support for his re-election bid in the face of stiff competiton, is due in Gwanda on Saturday.
Both MDC formations had planned to separately use Pelandala Stadium, where Mugabe will hold his rally.
Officials from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T Gwanda office had booked the venue and had been granted clearance by police to hold the rally.
But police later cancelled the clearance, on grounds that Mugabe wanted to use the venue. MDC-T provincial chairman Watchy Sibanda yesterday confirmed the development.
“We had been granted clearance for Pelandaba Stadium, but police later said Welshman Ncube had booked before us,” Sibanda said.
“However, police later changed and said Mugabe will be in Gwanda for his rally at Pelandaba meaning we cannot use it.”
Sibanda said police further refused to sanction a Ntalale rally, which the party had suggested as an alternative venue.
Ntalale is about 60km from Gwanda.
“Police said they don’t have manpower to deploy at our Ntalale rally which was an alternative to Pelandaba.
“To us this is a deliberate ploy derail or Matabeleland campaigns,” Sibanda said.
Nkankezi, in Insiza North has now been suggested as an option.
Officials from the Ncube-led MDC yesterday said they could not secure Pelandaba Stadium due to Mugabe’s rally.
The MDC cancelled its rallies which were set for Beitbridge on July 18 and Gwanda’s Pelandaba Stadium the following day after the party was told that Zanu PFhad booked the same venues to hold its rallies.
Former Gwanda mayor and aspiring MDC candidate for Ward 10 Lionel De Necker yesterday told Southern Eye the development was frustrating and undemocratic.
“We could not secure the place for the 20th as we understand the venue was booked before (by Zanu PF),” he said.
“We only saw in the State newspapers that the President will be there (in Gwanda).”
According to Mugabe’s schedule, he will be in Lupane on Friday, Gwanda on Saturday and Bulawayo on July 27.
Matabeleland South Provincial police spokesperson Inspector Christopher Ngwenya refused to comment and referred all questions to the national police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi.
Nyathi could not be reached for comment by the time of going to print.