JOHANNESBURG, 10 June (IRIN) - Bitter divisions in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and a lack of visible leadership on the part of its civil society partners are to blame for the failure of the recent stayaway in Zimbabwe, political analysts said on Friday.
The public largely ignored calls for a two-day work stoppage on Thursday and Friday by the 'Broad Alliance', a grouping of civil society groups and the MDC.
The alliance hoped to demonstrate mass disapproval of the ongoing national 'clean-up operation', in which thousands of illegal market stalls and homes have been razed by police.
Political observers said there had always been doubt that the stayaway would gather broad support because of the heavy deployment of soldiers and paramilitary police, but the extent of its failure was a sign that the public had finally lost confidence in the ability of the opposition and its alliance partners to rally opposition to President Robert Mugabe's government.
Johannesburg-based lawyer and activist Daniel Molokela told IRIN the failure was caused by a lack of consultation, opposition from within by some members of the alliance, and a lack of visible leadership leading the stayaway.
"For such mass action there should be broad consultation with all Zimbabweans, including those in the diaspora. There was none of that, just as there was no visible leadership, apart from National Constituent Assembly chairman Lovemore Madhuku," Molokela noted.
"People need visible leadership, and they can only participate in the presence of clear objectives and well-coordinated activities. This failure will have catastrophic results for the future of public political action in the country," said Molokela.
Mduduzi Mathuthu, the editor of www.newzimbabwe.com, a popular news website, said in an editorial, "The strategy adopted by the Broad Alliance will backfire spectacularly, with disastrous consequences for the opposition as a whole."
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai denied that internal party divisions over whether or not to join the mass action call were partly to blame for the failure of the stayaway, but admitted that some members of the MDC, who called for mass action immediately after the 31 March parliamentary elections, had accused the party leadership of inaction.
"The frustrations and differences of opinion have been misinterpreted as infighting," Tsvangirai told the weekly Zimbabwe Independent.
Apart from news reports that three members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions were arrested in Bulawayo, the situation across the country remained calm on Friday as most employees turned up for work.
Efforts to get a comment from Madhuku were fruitless, but ZANU-PF political commissar Elliot Manyika said the Broad Alliance was 'stillborn' and praised Zimbabweans for showing political maturity by putting the interests of the country first.
"The people of Zimbabwe are mature enough to know that there is no credible opposition that can lead this country. What we have is a disruptive and immature group of very poor chancers," said Manyika. "ZANU-PF is in charge of this country, and happy that Zimbabweans will always refuse to be misled."
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