However, MDC Alliance vice president Tendai Biti vowed yesterday that the opposition would mount more potent protests going forward, in a bid to oust President Emmerson Mnangagwa from power.
Analysts who spoke to the Daily News On Sunday yesterday said there was no running away from the fact that the failed protests had been undermined by poor strategy and disorganisation.
Respected University of Zimbabwe (UZ) politics expert, Eldred Masunungure, said this necessarily meant that opposition parties needed to re-think their strategies to outwit the ruling Zanu PF and its government.
“The problem is that our opposition parties are hopelessly divided. They need to go back and re-strategise, and also speak with one voice. They have to reconfigure.
“Zanu PF has not changed and … is still using the same tools that it always deploys, and the opposition parties are also using the same strategies.
“The planning was poor … and the demonstration was announced nearly a month ago, thus giving authorities ample time to prepare. This enabled the authorities to continue with their repression,” Masunungure said.
“Unfortunately, Friday’s events only work to embolden the authorities and to give them more confidence.
“The opposition parties are speaking with different voices and are not united. So, it will be difficult for them to confront the government.
“Look at Zanu PF before the demonstrations. All its party wings were speaking with one voice.
“Zanu PF is also very skilful in utilising opportunities. They used the Covid-19 lockdown to their advantage, to the fullest,” Masunungure further told the Daily News On Sunday.
Professor of World Politics at the London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Stephen Chan, also accused opposition parties of lacking “a meaningful strategy”.
“As for the opposition, it has no plan either. But I am glad people were not put at risk of brutality. There is enough suffering in Zimbabwe,” he said.
Former Cabinet minister in the 2009 stability-inducing government of national unity (GNU), Tapiwa Mashakada, also blamed his colleagues in the brawling MDC for lacking the courage to organise successful protests.
“The much-touted 31st July demo failed to take off, not because the people do not have a genuine cause, but because of fear and lack of courageous leaders who are prepared to sacrifice their luxurious lives.
“The social media activists are good for nothing … they just incite other people to be cannon fodder while they are hiding in safe places,” he wrote on social media in the aftermath of the demo.
“Apart from Job Sikhaka and Tendai Biti, I see a lot of cowards in the rank and file of those who chose the demonstration route.
“But even then, with the Covid-19 pandemic, demos were not ideal because of public health reasons. It was ill-timed.
“Meanwhile the suffering continues while we in the opposition are experimenting with tired methods of removing the government,” Mashakada wrote further.
“Let us try dialogue and national convergence in order to find each other. We must not use the people to satisfy our ego.
“Dialogue must be tried and given a chance otherwise we are all contributing to the burning of the house.
“The twitter activists are hiding and hoping that the innocent poor can come out to confront the regime,” Mashakada added.
Former deputy Justice minister in the GNU, Obert Gutu, echoed Mashakada’s sentiments.
“Fundamentally, it (Friday’s mass action) lacked thought leadership. There was neither focus nor strategy.
“At one point, the organisers told the nation that it was an anti-corruption demonstration, whilst on the other hand the same organisers pronounced that the demonstration was targeted at felling the Zanu PF government.
“They even coined the hashtag #ZanuPFMustGo.
“At the end of the day, the demonstration was a big flop because its messaging was both confused and confusing,” Gutu, who is also a former MDC senior official, told the Daily News On Sunday.
“Naturally, the government became extremely agitated when the organisers publicly proclaimed that the demonstration essentially was targeted at overthrowing the government and ushering in a so-called National Transitional Authority.
“In all fairness, no serious government under the sun would stand aside, watch and fold its arms while some people publicly declare that they are going to demonstrate in order to overthrow them,” Gutu added.
However, a defiant Biti said the protests had been successful — vowing that they would continue planning more demos to force out Mnangagwa from power.
“The #amoeba (Mnangagwa) must know that the people will not stop or rest until he is gone. This will be a long bitter fight to the end. The way of truth will prevail. It always does.
“The #amoeba must find an exit strategy and create a soft landing for him and his plentiful progeny. It is time. The citizens outsmarted the same by staying away,” Biti wrote on Twitter.
“But the world was exposed to a crude farcical display of force and idiocy, proof beyond doubt that he is irredeemable and the sooner he departs the throne the better,” he added.
This comes as Friday’s hugely anticipated protests failed to take off after authorities made heavy deployments of security forces around the country.
As a result, the day ended without major incidents being reported — as had been feared by political analysts — with most urban central business districts (CBDs) empty and the main organisers of the protests barely visible.
Still, police made a number of arrests, including those of some prominent MDC Alliance officials after they allegedly breached various laws.
Businesses in Harare, Bulawayo and other major towns shut their doors for the day, fearing clashes between protesters and security forces.
In the end, no anarchy ensued, with frustrated government critics venting their anger on social media.
In Harare, there was an eerie silence in the CBD as thousands of people stayed at home — with security forces ensuring that those without permission to do so did not travel to town.
Police and soldiers also patrolled both the city centre and residential areas, especially the high density suburbs.
In Bulawayo, the second city’s CBD was similarly deserted, with the majority of shops and banks closed.
On the eve of the protests, security forces had cleared the CBDs of Harare and Bulawayo — in the process preventing tens of thousands of people from reporting for work on Thursday.
All this comes as Zimbabwe is suffering from the triple whammy of a long-standing economic crisis, the negative effects of the global coronavirus pandemic and the severe regional drought, which has left more than half of the population facing starvation.
In addition, Zimbabwe is also currently under a rigid lockdown, which includes a dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed by authorities in a bid to combat the spread of the lethal coronavirus.