Mnangagwa and Chamisa urge people to vote for change during final rallies

MDC supporters at the rally. (Mike Hutchings/Reuters)

MDC supporters at the rally. (Mike Hutchings/Reuters)

Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa has embraced loyalists of former president Robert Mugabe, insisting the much maligned president had “made some mistakes”.

In Harare this weekend Chamisa told the nearly 35 000 people in attendance, who included the late opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s children, that victory was certain. He likened himself to the biblical Joshua who would lead the people to Canaan.

And while the ruling Zanu-PF and President Emmerson Mnangagwa have created some distance between itself and their former leader, Chamisa seems to have embraced Mugabe.

Chamisa said a faction of ZANU-PF that later formed the New Patriotic Front (NPF) party with Mugabe’s blessing was supporting him and would vote for him.

He said Zanu-PF had disowned Mugabe and he was willing to have the former dictator vote.

“Robert Mugabe is a citizen of Zimbabwe, a former president, the president of the first republic who is going to hand over to the president of the second republic, myself here present,” said Chamisa.

He said the focus is not the past but the future.

Chamisa said Mugabe made some mistakes but he made them together with Mnangagwa, and the two had been in the “same WhatsApp group.”

Chamisa said the current government was clueless and directionless.

“People are voting for change. People are voting for the new. People are voting for the young people are voting for a new Zimbabwe,” he said.

Chamisa and Mnangagwa were hosting their final rallies at venues less than seven kilometres apart.

READ MORE: EXPLAINER: Everything you need to know about Zimbabwe’s election

As Zanu-PF and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance supporters made their way to their different venues, unlike in the past, they all waved and joked with each other while wearing their party regalia with faces of either Mnangagwa or Chamisa.

For independent media journalist Chidza Sachidza, who previously witnessed political violence during ex-Robert Mugabe’s era, the peaceful interactions between Mnangagwa and Chamisa’s supporters did not go unnoticed.

“Maturity in our politics. Zanu PF and MDC Alliance supporters waving at each without insults. Conclusion: Mugabe and his acolytes were the most toxic elements in our political playfield. Good riddens,” wrote Sachidza on Facebook.

Based on the turnout at both rallies, the numbers confirmed that Zimbabwe’s capital city is an MDC stronghold with nearly 35 000 people attending Chamisa’s rally at the Freedom Square compared to an estimated 20 000 at Mnangagwa’s rally, which was held at the National Sports Stadium, the venue for his inauguration last November.

Mnangagwa arrived for his rally in an open truck and the tight security came as no surprise. A month ago an explosion rocked the president’s rally in the country’s second largest city, Bulawayo, leaving 49 people injured. Two subsequently died in hospital

READ MORE: Blast rocks Mnangagwa rally

This time around drones were introduced and there were barriers separating Mnangagwa’s high table and journalists as well as ordinary people. Good quality t-shirts with Mnangagwa’s face were distributed as well as umbrellas and scarves with the words: ‘Vote Mnangagwa’, to drive the message home.

In his address, Mnangagwa emphasised the positives experienced countrywide since he succeeded Mugabe last November.

The president said he was confident of victory and would continue to pursue policies to attract investment and build the economy.

“We have opened the country to the world through the ‘Zimbabwe is Open for business’ campaign. We must commend ourselves for what we have done so far including the $20-billion investment commitments made so far. $850-million was repatriated back into the country by people we did not name. We named those that did not bring back the money and the journey is not yet over,” said Mnangagwa.

“Over the last eight months I have shared our vision. We cannot go where we want overnight. The role of the president is to act, and we shall act and act. We have begun to implement the plans that we have in all sub-sectors of the economy. We have made tough decisions, some which are not palatable. No one who is honest will say things are not changing.”

He said he had opened the democratic space which had allowed all parties to campaign freely for the first time and invited international observers. He however warned international observers that if they dabble in local politics they would be deported.

The ZANU-PF leader said Zimbabwe now had 133 political parties, 55 of which were taking part in the election, with 23 presidential candidates.

He said he was concluding Mugabe’s term, and given his own five-year term, more changes are on the way.

He also weighed in on land reform, saying the process was irreversible and if he wins, multiple farm owners will lose some of their properties and farm sizes would be reduced.

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