HARARE – President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF are caught between a rock and a hard place on whether to use force in quashing the escalating protests or consider dialogue with the opposition, a respected think tank has said.
In its latest report, South Africa-based NKC African Economics said there are some people in Zanu PF who would prefer dialogue rather than confrontation with the protestors.
This comes as police has unsuccessfully tried to thwart the wave of anti-Mugabe protests that have rocked the country.
“The fact that senior Zanu PF officials are even talking about a state of emergency informs just how much the situation is sliding out of the regime’s control, leaving it with two hard options: negotiate or increase the repression and hope force will solve the problem,” the NKC report reads.
“The negotiations would consist of much-needed discussions over the creation of a level playing field heading toward 2018 elections and some decisive action on saving the economy.”
NKC said force is not a viable option as it would harden attitudes and move the protests from peaceful to potentially violent with disastrous consequences for both sides.
“Taking a page out of (Mugabe spokesperson George) Charamba’s playbook, … Mugabe should perhaps take a closer look at what the Syrian president has actually achieved, and then tell us again what a great strategy that was.”
The report also said they are some elements in the ruling party which are pushing for Mugabe to suspend Constitutional rule and declare a state of emergency in a move to deal with rising protests and internal divisions in the party.
“…an official state of emergency would allow the regime to unleash even more repression, including: mass arrests and detention without due process, an outright ban on any political activity (including strikes, marches or demonstrations), and, in extreme cases, would allow for the imposition of curfews and martial law.”
NKC’s report is on the back of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa hinting on dialogue.
Mnangagwa was quoted in the State media as saying the only way to go is through engagement and peaceful demonstrations.
“We can only build our nation by accepting that our fellow citizens might have a good idea, you listen and it’s out of debate that the best comes out. But those who then resort to violence, it only depicts their lack of understanding, their lack of depth of appreciation of development in our country,” he said.
However, Mugabe has warned against the protests, with Zanu PF youths plotting counter demos and threatening deal with the protestors.