The ruling Zanu PF party yesterday said it would deal harshly with the planned protests against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government on July 31, evoking memories of killings by the army of civilians in 2018 and January last year. Six civilians were shot dead in the post-election violence on August 1, 2018, while human rights groups say 17 people were killed by security agents during the protests against an increase in the price of fuel in January last year.
Zanu PF acting spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa told journalists after a politburo meeting that anyone protesting should be aware of the risk. “We have noted social media platforms to plan and organise violent protests and overthrow a constitutionally elected government,” he said.
“Let me say to (MDC Alliance leader Nelson) Chamisa and those who are calling for demonstrations on July 31, what happened (protesting) on August 1, 2018 will not happen again, what happened on January 16, 2019 will not happen again.
“We want to send this warning loud and clear to Chamisa that whatever you’re threatening on July 31, we say, come to the front and face the risk.”
Zimbabweans have seen their incomes and savings being eroded by rising inflation — for the second time in a decade — and accuse Mnangagwa of failing to live up to his pre-election promise to revive the economy and of returning to the dark days under his predecessor Robert Mugabe by using the military to crush dissent.
Mnangagwa promised a clean break from the Mugabe era, who was removed in a coup by his military chiefs in November 2017, but is accused of sending the army to conduct night raids, and beating suspected opposition activists in the townships in previous protests.
Opposition Transform Zimbabwe president Jacob Ngarivhume is leading the campaign, which has been endorsed by several opposition leaders including Chamisa.
“To Chamisa, we say don’t be a coward, you are always never found in front. If you do whatever you are threatening, come to front and face the risks,” Chinamasa challenged.
“Our cadres are there to take on anybody who attacks the government. Zanu PF members will have the right to defend our homes, people and properties. He should not be cowardly, let him come in front and face it.” He added: “We thank the organisers of the July 31 protests for warning us because as Zanu PF, we were sleeping with all eyes closed, but now, we will sleep with one eye closed and the other opened.”
Addressing the politburo, Mnangagwa warned of the possible tightening of lockdown measures in what observers say was a move aimed at foiling the protests.
“Although there is a visible spike in the number of positive cases, largely due to returnees, we shall continue to strengthen our preventive measures as well as our testing and contact tracing capacity,” Mnangagwa said.
“I urge the party (Zanu PF) to continue to be in the forefront of raising the awareness levels in our communities of the dangers of this pandemic. The recent rapid spike of infections requires that we make another review of the lockdown of the COVID-19 lockdown measures.”
Chinamasa also claimed there was weaponisation of social media to vilify Mnangagwa and his family. He insisted schools would reopen on July 28.