THE proposed street protests by MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai over a deteriorating economic situation would be a test of the former prime minister’s popularity, but could backfire spectacularly if they flop, with analysts saying this may cause irreparable damage.
Tsvangirai has vowed to push ahead with mass protests, telling a South African television channel, ETV’s 360 Degrees in September that this will force President Robert Mugabe to address the country’s economic woes.
A number of organisations, with close ties to the former premier have distanced themselves from the planned protest and this could prove to be the MDC-T leader’s undoing.
Analysts said Tsvangirai, plagued by mounting questions over his leadership qualities, is rolling mass protests to remain relevant. A flop will dent his credibility and image.
“He is trying to show his popularity as the main opposition leader after the chaos and divisions that rocked his party,” Blessing Vava, formerly with National Constitutional Assembly said.
“Demonstrations are likely to flop because the party no longer has the capacity to mobilise and rally Zimbabweans to the streets.”
He described the call for protests as an elitist move rather than an agenda for the whole country, warning that security forces would be on high alert and this could put paid to any planned demonstrations.
“If the demos do flop it will damage his image as the main opposition leader and alternative potential government,” Vava continued.
“The flop will be a testimony that Zimbabweans no longer listen to him.”
In 2007, Tsvangirai he and several other opposition officials and civic leaders were thoroughly beaten when they tried to organise a peace rally in Highfield, Harare.
Abednico Bhebhe, the MDC-T deputy organising secretary, thought his boss would not lose any credibility if the protests flopped.
“If it flops, it will not be the MDC-T and Tsvangirai that would have flopped, but Zimbabweans,” he said.
“It is Zimbabweans that will continue suffering under Mugabe.
“Also, it’s not about Tsvangirai’s credibility; it is about Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans.” Bhebhe said no date had been fixed yet for the protests and indicated that with or without police authority “we will go to the streets”.
“I want to emphasise very clearly for every Zimbabwean that MDC is not committing a crime and any president, government official or authority who is trying to bar the MDC from expressing their right would be violating the Constitution,” he said.
“According to Section 59 of the new Constitution, every person has a right to demonstrate and present petitions but these rights must be exercised peacefully.
“They can refuse permission, but we will go ahead with the protests nonetheless.”
Journalist Khanyile Mlotshwa said in the past Tsvangirai had been able to pick himself up after failures and he indicated a flop in the protests would not harm him much. Tsvangirai has previously called for demonstrations, with the last being the “Final Push” in 2003 which was a monumental failure.
His stock fell considerably and his party did not perform well in the 2005 elections, although it again rose in 2008.