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'Mnangagwa's gvt is shooting itself in the foot'

by Staff reporter
23 Jul 2020 at 21:31hrs | Views
THE government is scoring an own goal by being seen to be cracking down unjustly on the organisers of the planned July 31 mass protests and other critics, political analysts and rights groups told the Daily News.

This comes as authorities have arrested a number of dissenting voices over the past few days, while suspected State security agents have also raided the homes of prominent government critics - risking Harare's international re-engagement drive.

It also comes as the European Union (EU), the United States of America (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK) have demanded the release of the convenor of the July 31 demos, Jacob Ngarivhume, as well as an end to alleged harassment of opposition leaders.

Ngarivhume was arrested on Monday for allegedly inciting public violence after he insisted that the planned month-end mass protests would go ahead even without the approval of the police.

Respected University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, said it was unfortunate that the government appeared to have developed a "laager mentality" (an attitude of isolationism and intransigence born out of fear or anger).

"The arrests of critics and activists are a pre-emptive strike against the organisers of the July 31 demonstration.
"They hope that if they pluck out the organisers, they will have nipped the protest in the bud.
"There is clear panic by the authorities, hence they have developed a siege mentality whether it is justified or not," Masunungure told the Daily News.

"They feel threatened both internally and internationally, especially after the international condemnation of the arrests," he added.

He also said the government's reaction to the protests was unjustified as they were likely to fail anyway due to the rising cases of the lethal coronavirus and the State's history of heavy-handedness when responding to dissent.
Political analyst Admire Mare also said the crackdown on the backers of the planned anti-government protests was a pre-emptive strike by authorities against its critics.

"This can only be seen as a pre-emptive strategy, but also a subliminal threat and intimidation to anyone who dares to stand up for their rights.

"Given the atrocities that have accompanied recent demonstrations, it's not clear whether ordinary people will put their bodies on the line … but it's clear the groundswell for demonstrations has been building up for some time," he said.

Rights groups have also accused the government of suppressing people's freedom through the alleged use of brute force.

"The Zimbabwe Constitution guarantees the right to peacefully protest and yet the government arrests and detains organisers of anti-corruption protests and falsely charges them with inciting public violence.

"This is a sign of a paranoid government that believes in kindergarten propaganda disguised as intelligence.
"These knee-jerk repression reactions will only galvanise the people and open their eyes to see that this is a ruthless regime pretending to be a new dispensation," Human Rights Watch director for southern Africa, Dewa Mavhinga, said.

"So in that regard, the planned protests have already been successful even if the government succeeds in stopping the protests.

"The spotlight is now firmly on Zimbabwe, the world is watching and is appalled," he added.
The planned demonstration comes as political tensions are rising in the country over the deepening economic crisis, which has triggered anxiety and restlessness among long-suffering ordinary people.

It also comes as authorities issued a stern warning yesterday against people that they accuse of attempting to fuel instability in the country via social media.

"The security services, especially the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Zimbabwe National Army, Air force of Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service have noted with concern recent social media postings urging members to disregard lawful orders, commands and instructions given by their commanders while performing duty.

"The unsolicited messages are meant to cause alarm, despondency and divide the security services in the performance of their constitutional responsibilities.

"While investigations are in progress, the security services are, therefore, strongly warning these dubious characters who are even using cell-phone numbers with foreign codes to peddle hatred and incite violence among Zimbabweans," police national spokesperson, Paul Nyathi, said.

Political tension has been rising in the country ever since the organisers of the protests vowed to go ahead with their mass actions - with or without the green light from authorities - until the government acted on rampant public sector corruption and also holds much-needed national dialogue to rescue Zimbabwe from its myriad crises.

At the weekend, the government warned the opposition and civil society over the planned demos saying protesters would be treated like terrorists and likely end up being jailed.

Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi warned in an interview with the Daily News that authorities would use security forces and the courts to deal with the protests.

"If you look at the Public Health Act that was used by the president to pronounce a state of public emergency … once that is declared it means certain fundamental rights will be limited in that regard.

"It's a justifiable limitation of a right. Now you find certain individuals … pursuing their agenda of demonstrating in the middle of the pandemic.

"If you try to analyse that thinking, you then realise that the agenda is to make sure that our people die … and hence it is something that cannot be tolerated," Ziyambi told the Daily News.

"Any lawful government worth its salt will not condone such behaviour. It's a complete no, no … and nobody will be allowed to get in the streets to infect others.

"We believe that it's uncalled for and that there is a hidden hand to ensure that Zimbabweans die and we will make sure all the security agents and even the courts deal with it.

"We will ensure that courts are there to deal with the violators of Covid-19 regulations, that they are prosecuted and sent to jail.

"That's our response as government. We are very ready," Ziyambi further told the Daily News.
Meanwhile, combative lawyer-cum-politician, Job "Wiwa" Sikhala, says suspected State security agents are harassing his family.

"My wife was chased by three motor vehicles without number plates on her way from church.
"They wanted to block her and she suddenly turned into a tiny corridor which they didn't expect. They went on a chase all over Zengeza.

"Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights subsequently assisted my wife to report the chase," Sikhala told the Daily News yesterday.

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Source - dailynews