HARARE – Zimbabweans should hold on for an
even rougher ride in the coming days and
weeks, as the battle lines have been drawn
anew between a panicking President Robert
Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF on one side,
and long-suffering citizens on the other —
who defiantly plan to take to the streets
again, to the chagrin of the regime.
A worried senior Zanu PF official who spoke
to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday
warned that “blood could flow” in the
country after agitated civil servants,
pressure groups and opposition parties
served notice on Friday of another pending
nationwide shutdown, while the ruling party
threatened to deal with all of them severely.
“We should all be very worried by how quickly
and badly things are deteriorating again in
the country, with neither side willing to give
an inch.
As things stand, there is grave danger that
blood could flow soon,” the concerned bigwig
who maintains that he is “non-aligned” in
Zanu PF’s seemingly unstoppable factional
and succession wars said.
The senior Zanu PF official made his
comments after Mugabe delivered another
chilling warning to pro-democracy activists
and opposition parties on Friday while
addressing his party’s central committee in
Harare.
The increasingly frail nonagenarian said
ominously that he would not fold his hands
and allow protests to continue in the
country, even as such mass action is allowed
under the Constitution.
“The MDC has apparently now adopted a
policy of violence … we warn them that they
are playing a dangerous game, a very
dangerous game.
“They are bragging that they want to take
their violent demonstrations to rural areas
but again I say let them be warned that
when we move against them they should not
cry foul saying there is no more democracy in
the country.
“Some of them (opposition leaders) have
never been held in cells eating very little
food in a filthy place before they are even
tried in court. If they have ears to hear, let
them hear.
“Let the opposition parties and all those
angling for chaos and mayhem be warned
that our patience has run out. Government
will take very strong measures against any
political party, organisation or individuals
who perpetrate violent demonstrations,” the
angry Mugabe said.
But as the 92-year-old — the only leader
Zimbabweans have known since the country
gained its independence from Britain in April
1980 — was promising to crush and jail all
dissenters, miffed civil servants were
threatening to hold another massive strike
following government’s decision to retrench
workers and freeze bonuses.
At the same time, and riding on the spirit of
defiance currently sweeping the country, 18
opposition parties coalescing under the
banner of the National Electoral Reform
Agenda (Nera) — also announced that they
would hold countrywide protests, to press for
much-needed reforms ahead of the country’s
eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.
Nera organising committee chairperson,
Joelson Mugari, told the Daily News on
Sunday that they had already notified
Zimbabwe’s stretched police that they would
mount demonstrations in all the country’s
210 constituencies on Saturday.
“We will hold demonstrations in all the
country’s 210 constituencies on September
17 because we realise that the police want to
deploy all their resources in the capital and
thereby cause violence in the process. So, we
know they will be stretched this time
around,” Mugari said.
However, he added that last week’s High
Court ruling, which annulled a recent ban by
police on demonstrations in central Harare,
had “nothing to do” with their pending
protests.
“Remember the ruling was only about central
Harare. We could still have held our protests
in Kuwadzana, Epworth, Dzivaresekwa,
Chitungwiza and other areas that were not
affected by the ban. So even if the State
was going to go back to court and seek to
have the ban re-instated, our protests will
still go ahead,” Mugari said.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC
also vowed to continue with its protests until
its demands were met, despite Mugabe
accusing the party of leading its partners in
Nera to allegedly foment violence in the
country.
“We have entered the homestretch. Victory is
certain, defeat is not on the agenda, and
surrender is not an option. Mugabe is now
virtually a toothless bulldog. He cannot stop
the tidal wave of change in the country. He
is in the political departure lounge on his
way out of power. That’s for sure.
“The political situation is very volatile but
no civil war will break out in Zimbabwe. The
Zanu PF regime is broke, divided and
clueless. It’s collapsing. This is the end
game. It’s irreversible.
“Very soon, a new political dispensation will
be ushered in Zimbabwe,” a buoyant MDC
spokesman Obert Gutu said.
Human Rights Watch senior researcher for
Africa, Dewa Mavhinga, said opposition
political parties should call “Mugabe’s bluff”
and go ahead with their planned peaceful
protests for key electoral reforms.
“We are under a new constitutional
dispensation, so it cannot be business as
usual for Mugabe and his government to
disregard human rights and the rule of law
without facing resistance and demands for
justice and accountability.
“If Mugabe dares to crush the opposition,
then he must know that dictatorship has a
witness. The world is watching and will not
be silent in the face of repression and abuse.
Zimbabweans must never fear to exercise
their constitutional rights, ultimately justice
will prevail,” Mavhinga told the Daily News
On Sunday.
On its part, radical pressure group
Tajamuka/Sesijikile, which has had running
battles with police in Harare, said it would
hold protests in the capital every week from
now onwards, until their demands were also
met.
“From now onwards we are going to follow
the Constitution as it is. So, we are going to
escalate demonstrations. But going forward
we are not going to bother to seek police
clearance since the supreme law of the land
does not require us to do so,” its spokesman
Hardlife Mudzingwa said.
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 rot.
Since the economy began experiencing
serious turbulence, including banks running
out of cash, this has put the government
under growing pressure as angry
Zimbabweans have mounted seemingly
unending demonstrations.
Mugabe and his panicking government
recently tried to contain the protests by
invoking a ban on demonstrations, but this
was rejected by the courts which ruled that
the decree was unconstitutional.
Presenting his mid-term fiscal policy
statement last week, Finance minister
Patrick Chinamasa scrapped bonuses for all
government workers as part of a raft of
measures which include taxing civil servants’
allowances and cutting salaries of senior
officials.
The emergency measures were announced as
civil service salaries and bonuses have been
gobbling virtually the whole national budget,
worsening the country’s deepening liquidity
and cash shortages.
But civil servants’ leaders, including vocal
teachers’ lobby groups, said the government
had acted illegally when it announced the
measures.
“The bottom line is that the Progressive
Teacher’s Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) says no
to this nonsense by the government.
Comrades, it’s either we eat or we are
eaten. This is the time to fight. If we let
this go on we will not have salaries in
October,” said a fuming PTUZ secretary-
general Raymond Majongwe.
“The little we are receiving is not enough
and you want to take that from us. If it
means we are ending up in prison so be it.
We have to stand up.
“This is a call for anyone who cares. We are
going to protest and protest violently.”
“The government has shown us that they
don’t care about us anymore. They agreed to
cut our allowances by between five to 20
percent. They will also dismiss 25 000
workers, and Chinamasa also suspended
bonuses