HARARE – A fuming President Robert Mugabe yesterday delivered an ominous warning to opposition political parties that they are playing a dangerous game by planning to protest against his government and would have their leaders jailed.
The embattled nonagenarian, who is struggling to contain growing civil unrest which his critics blame on poor governance, told the Zanu PF Central Committee meeting held in Harare — that the MDC and other political parties coalescing under the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) were planning to foment violence.
“The MDC has apparently now adopted a policy of violence . . . we warn them that they are playing a dangerous game, a very dangerous game,” said an angry Mugabe.
“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.”
Mugabe has been on the war path against pro-democracy and opposition political groups who have been staging protests in a bid force to address the deepening economic rot.
Last week, police issued a ban against demonstrations in central Harare.
A High Court judge annulled the police ban on Wednesday when she ruled that it was unconstitutional.
The ruling followed the move by stretched police last Thursday to invoke Statutory SI 101A, to ban demonstrations in central Harare for two weeks.
This came on the eve of a mega demonstration that had been planned by 18 opposition parties to press for much-needed electoral reforms ahead of Zimbabwe’s eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.
A week earlier, the High Court had allowed the same 18 parties to hold their demonstration, which was ruthlessly crushed by law enforcement agents.
And speaking on Saturday, a few hours after he arrived back in the country from Dubai — where he had spent three days amid swirling rumours regarding his health — Mugabe told Zanu PF youths that courts were being negligent by allowing demonstrations to go ahead.
“Of course, we can’t allow them (the opposition) to continue with these violent demonstrations unimpeded. Enough is enough,” the increasingly frail nonagenarian thundered.
His attack on the judiciary was widely interpreted as trying to force judges from allowing demonstrations to take place, as these have seriously unnerved the government.
The attack evoked bad memories from 2001 when the government purged white judges from the Bench, including the then chief justice Anthony Gubbay, for ruling against Zimbabwe’s chaotic land reform programme.
But yesterday Mugabe blew his nose on Nera and its demands for electoral reforms which include re-constituting the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) secretariat.
“Elections in Zimbabwe are the hall mark of our democracy and all the elections we have had in the past followed the dictates of our Constitution. We have an independent electoral body and it had done so well so far,” said Mugabe.
“There is no reason to suppose that the 2018 elections will be held under different conditions. Nothing will change; we will go to elections the same way.”
Mugabe and Zec have been accused of ballot cheating to entrench the 92-year-old’s rule.
In 2008, Zec withheld for six weeks results of an election in which Mugabe was defeated by Morgan Tsvangirai, who failed to get an outright majority needed to land the presidency.
Yesterday Mugabe also stuck the boot into the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) after it called for the investigation and disciplining of senior government officials behind partisan distribution of agricultural inputs and food aid.
“Then we have lies by a stupid chairperson of some stupid non-governmental organisation that food aid is being given only to Zanu PF supporters. How then are others surviving? Lies just to make headlines. Aren’t you ashamed of your lies?” railed Mugabe at the ZHRC which is a statutory body not a Non-Governmental Organisation as he alleged.
The ZHRC chairperson, Elasto Mugwadi, has unveiled a report saying Zanu PF was distributing food aid on partisan lines.
He said investigations conducted between April and August this year established that there was unbridled maladministration on the part of some public officials, who were allegedly performing their duties partially and with bias against people affiliated to certain political parties in contravention of the provisions of the Public Service Regulations SI 1/2000.