Dark cloud hangs over
Zimbabwe

HARARE – President Robert Mugabe and his
panicking ruling party — reeling from a
humiliating High Court shellacking on
Wednesday over the government’s illegal
banning of mass action in Harare — are
urging Zanu PF youths to go “pound for
pound” with protesters, in a move seen as a
declaration of war on dissenting voices.
Well-placed Zanu PF sources told the Daily
News yesterday that the “problematic
directive” was issued during the former
liberation movement’s politburo meeting in
Harare on Wednesday, and as opposition
parties and pro-democracy groups — riding
on the High Court ruling — said they would
soon be rolling out more protests.
Worryingly too for many Zimbabweans, the
order was made just days after sycophantic
State media revealed that the country’s
infamous paramilitary groups — derisively
referred to as Green Bombers or Border Gezi
militia, and in effect Zanu PF’s storm
troopers — were also ready to descend on
protesters.
One of the senior Zanu PF bigwigs who spoke
to the Daily News confirmed that the ruling
party’s militant youths had been given
“carte blanche permission” to counter the
proliferating demonstrations which threaten
to end Mugabe and Zanu PF’s 36 years in
power.
“The president has given the youths an open
cheque to deal with protesters and if these
opposition parties continue with their
behaviour, it is now going to be pound for
pound. Let them be warned,” the politburo
member said.
Zanu PF secretary for administration
Ignatius Chombo appeared to back the claim
when he told journalists at the end of the
politburo meeting that the ruling party had
tasked its officials to come up with counter-
strategies against demonstrations.
“… (Mugabe) stated the opposition had
forged a coalition aided by some external
forces which have become glaringly visible.
“The opposition has taken to violent protests
supported by the western powers who provide
financial aid.
“The president informed the politburo on the
need for the party to evolve its own
strategies to counter the violence being
perpetrated by the opposition,” Chombo, who
is also minister in charge of police, said.
On Wednesday, High Court Judge Priscillah
Chigumba overturned a government ban on
protests in Harare, ruling bravely that this
was unconstitutional.
“The decision to issue it (the ban) has no
factual basis on these papers which are
before me as I have alluded. Having made a
finding that Statutory Instrument 101A was
made unprocedurally, we must determine its
fate in terms of the relief sought … I
declare that SI 101A of 2016 is invalid to the
extent of its inconsistency with the
Constitution,” she said.
The ban had itself come on the eve of a mega
demonstration that had been planned by 18
opposition parties to press for much-needed
electoral reforms ahead of Zimbabwe’s
eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.
A week earlier, the High Court had allowed
the same 18 parties to hold their
demonstration, which was ruthlessly crushed
by law enforcement agents.
Mugabe had also made threats against the
judiciary ahead of the ruling in a rant which
was widely seen as trying to sway the Bench
to his side in light of the growing protests
which are permitted by the new Constitution.
Another senior Zanu PF official also told the
Daily News yesterday that the party had
resolved during Wednesday’s politburo
meeting to unleash plain-clothes security
details during demonstrations, to complement
the youths in their counter-measures
against protesters.
“The issue of security was discussed at
length and we were also tasked to come up
with strategies to counter the
demonstrations. It was discussed that as the
ruling party we must prove to opposition
parties that we have the means to silence
them,” the bigwig said.
Opposition parties and political analysts
reacted with shock yesterday to the ruling
party’s plan, saying this was “pure evil”
which could even result in the needless loss
of lives.
However, MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu —
whose party has been playing a prominent
role in the anti-government protests —
vowed that Zimbabweans would not be
intimidated by Mugabe and Zanu PF’s
“machinations”.
“Mugabe is inciting violence as he always
does when he’s cornered. But we are not
cowards. We don’t feel intimidated by those
puerile threats of violence. We know our
rights,” he said.
An analyst with Cape Town-based think-tank
NKC, Gary van Staden, said a cornered
Mugabe and Zanu PF were likely to react
violently to the High Court’s Wednesday
ruling.
“Mugabe is not likely to take kindly to the
latest judicial intervention that overturned a
clearly illegal police ban on protests and
demonstrations in Harare.
“However brave the recent actions of the
judiciary may be, they could hasten even
more draconian responses from the Mugabe
regime, including a state of emergency. That
in turn may hasten the demise of the regime
and also increase the potential for violence,”
he said.
Kent University law lecturer Alex Magaisa
also said the ruling party would react
viciously, warning that Zanu PF could,
among other things, suspend the Constitution
and impose a state of emergency, or use
brute force.
“Another, more likely strategy is to
infiltrate peaceful citizens’ demonstrations
and cause enough mayhem to justify banning
future demonstrations and possibly deploy
the military without necessarily declaring a
State of Public Emergency,” Magaisa said.
Mugabe, in power since 1980 when Zimbabwe
gained its independence from Britain, is
facing the biggest challenge to his 36-year-
rule which critics say has been catastrophic.
Zimbabwe is currently deep in the throes of a
debilitating economic crisis which has given
rise to waves of protests and riots by
ordinary citizens who blame public sector
corruption and the government’s policies for
the current rot.
Since the economy began experiencing
serious turbulence, includ