OPPOSITION MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa (pictured) has challenged President Emmerson Mnangagwa to stop violence in the country, arbitrary arrests, abductions and torture of civilians under his watch as such atrocities have rendered Unity Day “irrelevant”.
This came as Mnangagwa, in his Unity Day speech emphasised peace-building and conflict resolution and management, saying that they must remain a binding feature of the national development agenda.
“Where there are differences we must aim to settle and resolve them through dialogue and engagement. My administration has the political will and boldness to confront the past to bring about healing and closure,” Mnangagwa said.
“I am encouraged by the successes we are scoring towards building greater national cohesion and singleness of purpose informed by the lessons from disturbances which characterised the early years of independence.”
But Chamisa in his Unity Day statement, criticised Mnangagwa’s administration, saying that it had caused too many divisions, violence, hatred, “and evil that has not been seen in many years”.
“Unity Day has become meaningless without the practice of unity. It has become a reminder of the orgy of violence, intolerance and hate speech that continue to engulf our nation,” Chamisa said.
He said under Mnangagwa, hundreds of MDC Alliance supporters had been tortured, arrested and harassed, while the democratic space had shrunk to unprecedented levels.
“We note with disdain an increase in abductions and torture against its citizens including young female leaders such as Netsai Marowa, Cecillia Chimbiri and Joanah Mamombe (Harare West MP),” Chamisa said.
He said it was worrying that hundreds of MDC Alliance leaders remained in detention, including Harare mayor Jacob Mafume, Last Maengahama and Tungamirai Madzokere.
“The consistent and persistent denial of citizens’ rights depicts the character of covert violence meted out on political opponents by those in charge of State institutions,” the opposition leader said.
In 2020, there were several allegations of abductions and torture of MDC Alliance activists and journalists with most of the human rights violations happening during the COVID-19-induced lockdown period.
“The bold font of divisions, destruction, violence and anarchy continue to override the voices of love, unity, peace, and development in our beloved Zimbabwe. We need unity, peace and prayer to heal our nation. Peace and unity are the necessary ingredients for development and upliftment. Without peace and unity there can be no enjoyment of the fundamental freedoms and rights that all peoples are entitled to,” he said.
Chamisa said unity did not mean criminalising diversity and alternative views, or “tyranny from the centre”.
The MDC Alliance leader said violence against one another was intolerable.
“The harassment, intimidation, illegal arrest of opposition leaders, activists, and professionals is repugnant to unity and peace. We see how professionals and citizens have been harassed.
A case in point is the persecution of journalists like Hopewell Chin’ono and many others.”
He said under the MDC Alliance government, December 22 will be called a National Unity, Peace and Prayer Day.
“We call for the dropping of charges and release of all those arrested on politically-motivated charges. We demand the withdrawal of charges against all innocent citizens and leaders. We demand justice for victims of all the injustices that have taken place in the country. Unity begins with cessation of political hostilities and an end to persecution by prosecution.”
He also condemned the continuous looting from State coffers by the ruling elite.
“We have great divisions between the haves who loot the State coffers and the have-nots who are fighting for their survival and livelihoods. Certain communities and regions are marginalised, neglected and abandoned in development. There cannot be peace where there is such segregation in the sharing of the national cake that belongs to us all.”
Chamisa said no political party or individual has unilateral entitlement to Zimbabwe.
“We, in the MDC, are ready to play our part in finding a lasting solution to the national issues that bring us together as a nation,” he said.
Meanwhile, former legislator for Masvingo Central, Jeffreyson Chitando (MDC Alliance) torched a social media storm when he urged Zimbabweans to abandon the Unity Day and instead turn it into Patriotism Day.
Chitando said there was nothing to celebrate about the Unity Accord which was signed in 1987 by the late former President Robert Mugabe and the late Vice-President Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo to end the friction between Zanu PF and PF Zapu.
He said Unity Day only invoked sad memories of the massacred and displaced masses of Matabeleland and Midlands.
“The Zimbabwean government must seriously consider changing December 22 Unity Day to Patriotism Day. The continued commemoration of a forced unity after the late Father Zimbabwe Joshua Nkomo was cowed into submission to join Zanu PF is an insult to the people of Matabeleland.
“The most appropriate and perpetual name must be Patriotism Day,” Chitando said.