The Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco), a public enterprise enjoying a transport monopoly, on Sunday barred passengers wearing yellow regalia associated with the newly established Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC).
A day after, though, scores of Zupco buses ferried thousands of mostly Zanu PF youths to Harare from different parts of the country to attend a convention celebrating the birth of the late former president, Robert Mugabe.
The Nelson Chamisa-led CCC held a star rally to launch campaigns for by-elections that will be held on 26 March.
Prior to the rally, the police had imposed strict conditions for the meeting, among them barring the party from bussing in supporters, observing social distancing as well as desisting from singing and dancing.
The police was accused of selective application of the law since it did not set the same conditions when the ruling Zanu PF held its star rally a week earlier.
On Sunday, buses and kombis operating under the Zupco banner were turning away anyone wearing yellow.
Supporters of CCC who had managed to get into central Harare found it difficult to board the Zupco buses at such places as downtown Market Square.
The Zupco “ban” extended to ordinary passengers who also happened to wear yellow clothes that, however, did not carry the face of Chamisa.
“Other people who wearing yellow outfits and wishing to go to their homes in Highfields (the suburb where the CCC rally took place), especially women, were also denied entry into the Zupco buses. The conductors said they had strict instructions not to entertain regime change agents,” said Melody Mashonganyika (41) from Mabvuku.
It was not clear, however, who had given them the order.
Ahead of the CCC rally, the police also set up unusually stringent roadblocks on all the major.
Sweat-drenched supporters who spoke to Grazers News at Highfields’ Zimbabwe Grounds just outside the city and had come from as far afield as Epworth, Chitungwiza and Mabvuku said the traffic police details were limiting passengers in private cars to only two.
“For us to reach this place (Zimbabwe Grounds), it has been a hassle. We were in a car with three people and it was ordered to go back as police said they wanted only two people in every car. The road was literally barricaded from Epworth,” said Norest Manyika (38) a resident of Overspill in Epworth.
They had to split in order to reach the rally venue.
Stephen Sarkozy Chuma, the CCC national youth spokesperson said the police and Zupco actions had affected attendance at the rally, which was, however, filled to capacity.
The opposition party claims some four million people also followed the rally online.
“Young people yearn to exercise their democratic rights and it is through attending such rallies that they get better informed and positioned to do that. We are saddened by the fact that state apparatuses sought to exclude them from enjoyment of their rights such as association and movement,” he said.
In his speech, Chamisa accused the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) of conniving with Zanu PF to rig the upcoming by-elections and the 2023 plebiscite.
“We will not let ZEC get away with its manipulation. Starting with this by-election, if ZEC does not address these anomalies, all will not be well. There will be instability in the country. On the issue of voter manipulation, do not panic, we have strategies.”
“The first strategy is to ensure that ZEC policies are compatible with the Constitution. If they don’t heed our demands, then we will take legal remedies. But we know that the courts may not be able to deliver justice fairly. We have our own solution. We will go to the streets. We will protest against ZEC,” he said.
Godfrey Tsenengamu, former Zanu PF youth commissar who was expelled and started a largely unknown party, said Mnangagwa had failed to govern the country from the time of the military-assisted coup that gave him power in 2017.
“Some people thought that he (Mnangagwa) meant change and we supported him, but we realised that there is no change. We thought looting (which took place) under Mugabe would end, but it has become worse.
“I am here because I support gatherings where issues of development are being discussed. We may have different ideologies (from CCC), but something for sure is that you (Chamisa) are a force to reckon with,” he said.
Senior CCC member and former national party spokesperson Daniel Molokele told Grazers News that despite the odds, the rally had been a success.
The Zupco chief executive, Everisto Madangwa, had not responded to questions sent to him via Whatsapp.