Mnangagwa intensifying crackdown against the opposition

 Mnangagwa intensifying crackdown against the opposition
Published: 19 August 2019 (235 Views)
FEARFUL authorities are intensifying their crackdown against the opposition, with police arresting a number of MDC officials at the weekend - in addition to banning anti-government protests that were slated for Bulawayo today, the Daily News reported.

This comes as political analysts also warned that President Emmerson Mnangagwa's efforts to end decades of Zimbabwe's international isolation are now in serious jeopardy following last Friday's savage attacks by heavily-armed police on peaceful protesters.

The analysts pointed to the "mismatch" between the rising State-sponsored violence and abductions targeting government critics and the escalation in Mnangagwa's re-engagement efforts with the United States, Britain and other major Western countries.

At the same time, diplomatic sources said Zimbabwe now also risked getting into the "bad books" of President Donald Trump's administration — which they added would be "a most unwise move on Harare's part" — after indications at the weekend that the under pressure ruling Zanu PF was resorting to its "crazy conspiracies" of old.

It emerged at the weekend, that police had rounded up several MDC leaders in Bulawayo, including the party's national chairperson Tabitha Khumalo — on seemingly tenuous allegations of mobilising opposition supporters for today's planned protests in the City of Kings.

This came hardly 24 hours after the government had been widely condemned nationally and internationally for Friday's brutal attacks by police on peaceful protesters who included women.
All this notwithstanding, authorities once again moved to issue a prohibition order against the protests slated for Bulawayo today.

Interestingly, the High Court in the country's second city also stopped indefinitely the planned demo, following an urgent application which was filed by a section of the business community — which claimed that it feared the destruction of its properties.

In its own prohibition order, the police also curiously cited — among other reasons — the hardships being experienced in the country — as a likely source of agitation and violence by protesters, if the march went ahead.

Contacted for a comment, MDC vice president Tendai Biti told the Daily News yesterday that the government clampdown on the party betrayed "fear and desperation" by authorities.

"We have received the ban of the demonstration. It is just a desperate manifestation of a desperate regime that is running out of options. You cannot take away rights that are codified in the Constitution ... they are setting themselves up for an implosion," he said.

Biti also said the arrests of the party's senior officials at the weekend were a sign of "lack of respect for the rule of law" and a continuation of "Mugabeism".

"This is fascism. We have always argued that this is a regime that knows one thing, and its predatory politics and fascism. The full colours of Emmerson have been exposed. If he won the elections last year why is he afraid of the people?

"This is a clueless, paranoid regime that is running scared. The MDC is a peaceful organisation. Why are they being fascist and arresting our leaders?" he asked rhetorically.

Following Friday's barbaric acts by police, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa warned that the country was hurtling towards a point of no return as the agitated populace was running out of patience with the government, especially with regards to the country's worsening economic rot.

"ED is pushing himself into a dangerous corner. He is in his 70s and should make sure that he leaves behind a happy legacy. He must choose whether he wants to be remembered as a legend or a villain.

"While 2017 was supposed to be a window for him and his comrades to say we are leaving the past behind and correcting our mistakes, it was a regression.

"Now, he is leaving people with little space and that could be a source of discomfort and resistance ... which could come from unemployed youths," Chamisa said.

"The next few weeks are going to be decisive for the next generations and my message to Mnangagwa is very simple: I am your man for genuine dialogue … my interest is your interest, and your interest is my interest.

"A new dawn can never be impeded. Indeed, nobody has the power to stop that ...  the sun is rising in Zimbabwe and there will be light very soon," he added.

Zimbabwe is currently experiencing a girnomous economic crisis which triggered Friday's anti-government protests — and which had appeared to be going ahead without problems until police issued a prohibition order against the march late on Thursday night.

The MDC subsequently failed in its attempt to have the High Court nullify the police ban.

This resulted in police violently breaking up the protests — drawing widespread international condemnation in the process, after dozens of protesters, including women, suffered multiple injuries during the chaotic scenes in Harare.

Yesterday, rights groups and political analysts warned that the weekend violence and the escalating clampdowns on the MDC would harm Mnangagwa's re-engagement efforts.

"Regrettably, the heavy-handedness of the police, and the brutality with which they crushed a peaceful protest points to a regime that has not changed from its past of serious human rights abuses.

"The August 16 police brutality is at odds with Mnangagwa's repeated promises to usher in a ‘new dispensation' that embraces democracy and human rights, and that gross rights abuses would become a thing of Zimbabwe's past.

"This negatively impacts on any government efforts at international re-engagement, to enable Zimbabwe to get international support and investors," Dewa Mavhinga, Human Rights Watch director for southern Africa, said.

"If the Mnangagwa government is serious about respecting the rule of law, then it should take steps to ensure that what happened on August 16 is never repeated," he added.

Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said it would now be difficult for Mnangagwa and his government to convince the world that they were different from Mugabe's previous administration.

"That response from the police and the message that Mnangagwa has been giving the world is contradictory. After all, action speaks louder than words.

"What the police did reflects what the ruling party thinks.  When they feel threatened they resort to violence.
"This is the real ... Mnangagwa and not the one who talks of reforms, and the international community has to view him as such.  It is a classical own goal," Mukundu said.

On his part, political analyst Admire Mare said the country's democratic space had shrunk significantly despite promises to repeal some of Zimbabwe's problematic laws.

"Despite the Constitution allowing for peaceful demonstrations, clamping down on unarmed civilians represents a new low for the current regime.

"Zimbabwe urgently requires political dialogue between the main political players rather than confrontation," Mare said.

- dailynews

Tags: Mnangagwa,
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