Zimbabwe opposition says economy the priority
MUREHWA: A star opposition campaigner ridiculed President Robert Mugabe’s anti-Tony Blair election theme on Friday, saying the priority was Zimbabwe’s economy and not attacks on former colonial power Britain.
Mugabe has made the British leader the centrepiece of his campaign for parliamentary elections next Thursday, saying he wants to “bury” Blair and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which he says are puppets of Britain and other Western nations.
Nelson Chamisa, a 28-year-old whose stagecraft, including singing and poking fun at Mugabe, has become a prominent part of the MDC’s electoral push, told Reuters that Mugabe’s focus for the election was deeply flawed.
“Tony Blair has nothing to do with this election and maybe Mugabe needs to be reminded that,” Chamisa said in the small settlement of Murehwa 50 km (80 miles) north of the capital Harare.
“The key issues are really simple even to a man like Mugabe — food, economic recovery, the fight against HIV/AIDS, improved economic and political governance,” he added before leading a crowd of several hundred in anti-Mugabe chants.
Chamisa was the youngest legislator in parliament and is defending his urban Kuwadzana seat in Harare. He spends little time campaigning in what is considered a safe seat, and instead joins MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in speaking at other rallies for his colleagues.
Although violence in the runup to this year’s elections has been low compared to prior elections in 2000 and 2002, Chamisa and his MDC colleagues have employed elaborate security measures due to sporadic attacks.
Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party is widely expected to win the March 31 election, handing a new victory to the 81-year-old president who led Zimbabwe to independence from Britain in 1980.
The MDC has charged that Mugabe — who critics accuse of an increasingly draconian political crackdown — has used tough media and security laws to engineer a ZANU-PF win, a charge the ruling party denies.
Despite his age, Chamisa is a veteran rights campaigner who honed his political skills as a student activist at Harare Polytechnic College which expelled him for opposition politics. —Reuters