Police in Zimbabwe were out in force Sunday for a rally addressed by Movement for Democratic Change head Morgan Tsvangirai, a week after political leaders agreed that the security forces be on hand to protect freedom of expression and association. The accord followed a surge in attacks against supporters of the MDC.
The rally was quite small in comparison to others around the MDC’s main stronghold of Harare. Most of those who attended were men. Some of them said their wives were too nervous to attend after another rally two weeks ago was disrupted by violence.
The earlier rally in a Harare suburb was attacked by youths aligned with the ZANU-PF of President Robert Mugabe. More than 20 people were injured, forcing the MDC to abandon the gathering.
After that violence, and with the encouragement of South Africa, Mr. Tsvangirai, Mr. Mugabe and Welshman Ncube, leader of the smaller MDC party, met about the situation.
The sides agreed to draw up a code of conduct for political parties as they go about the business of attracting supporters.
People cheered at Sunday's rally when Mr. Tsvangirai said that many people have lost patience with the power-sharing government and that the transition toward new elections under a new constitution is going on too long.
But he cautioned against any uprising against the unity government, of which he is prime minister. “Dialogue and managing the reform is our objective. Those who would like to have uprisings and revolution again must understand, a revolution has no predictable outcome. Our job in this transition is not to be victims but to be managers of change," he said.
Mr. Tsvangirai said people must be able to vote freely and without fear in any election. And he said they must be sure that their choice at the polls is respected. “You can’t run a free and fair election where the outcome of that vote is not respected. The will of the people must be respected," he said.
In the last elections in 2008, the MDC won a narrow majority in the legislature and Mr. Tsvangirai beat Mr. Mugabe in the first round of the presidential election, but he withdrew from the run-off after hundreds of his supporters were killed.
Mr. Mugabe was the only candidate in the second round but no country recognized the result. During the stalemate, regionally supervised negotiations led to a power-sharing government.