MDC-T leader Douglas Mwonzora yesterday got a rude awakening when a paltry crowd attended his party’s official launch of its campaign ahead of the March 26 by-elections.
An estimated 300 people turned up for the rally, but a statement issued by the party claimed 5000 attended.
Mwonzora’s party is contesting the polls under the MDC Alliance banner after side-lining Zimbabwe’s mainstream opposition party led by Nelson Chamisa under controversial circumstances.
Chamisa’s formation last month dumped the MDC name and is now known as the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC).
The rally in Harare’s Highfield yesterday was being hyped as the stage to demonstrate that Mwonzora was the leading opposition figure in Zimbabwe.
It was billed to start at 10am, but the party leader only arrived at the venue in the high-density suburb around 3:30pm as there were only a handful of people.
It was speculated that he delayed his arrival because he was hoping that there would be an improvement in attendance.
Independent Norton legislator Temba Mliswa said the small crowd showed that Mwonzora faced an uphill struggle as he tries to outmanoeuvre Chamisa’s CCC and Zanu PF.
“For Mwonzora today should be a reminder that he has work to do,” Mliswa said on Twitter.
“As I have always argued, the electorate isn’t obtuse or naive.
“It knows what it wants and he has the onerous task to make people believe that he can be a genuine opposition leader.”
Mwonzora told ZBC that he was shocked by images on social media showing a paltry crowd.
He believes that over 5 000 people attended the rally.
“I’m very excited by the turnout,” Mwonzora was quoted saying.
“I was shocked the social media was circulating pictures without people, but now we can see for ourselves 5 000 plus.
“Besides the ruling party, no other party can have such numbers without being forced or enticed by money.
“After having a leadership clean-out, we are now having leaders who follow the party ideology and out of 12 seats we expect a minimum of eight.”
Most of the seats fell vacant when Mwonzora recalled MDC Alliance legislators after accusing them of joining a rival party.
His party failed to field candidates in three of the constituencies that would be up for grabs on March 26.
At yesterday’s rally, most of the people were clad in red t-shirts emblazoned with the late Morgan Tsvangirai portraits with only a few wearing Mwonzora’s white branded t-shirts.
A high quality PA system churned out Paul Madzore’s songs at the rally.
Madzore is a member of Chamisa’s CCC. There was a scuffle at the end of the rally as some people demanded refunds for transport fares, which could be an indication that they were from other suburbs of Harare.
In his address, Mwonzora reserved his venom for Chamisa and CCC, accusing them of adopting an Islamist terrorist group slogan.
The claim has already been dismissed as false after it was first made by the state-controlled media.
“There are people whom we recalled from office because of incompetence and they are pleading to be returned again,” he said.
“You should vote for someone who has outwitted both (President Emmerson) Mnangagwa and Chamisa.
“That person is me. There is no other party that is going to use our party symbols and colours. The MDC party is ours.”
Mwonzora is accused of doing Zanu PF’s bidding, but he denies the claims. Standard