‘Govt will crush planned demos’… minister says as opposition plots mass protests

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© THE government warned yesterday that it would ruthlessly crush the mass protests mooted by the opposition to commemorate the death of people who were slain by security forces during last year’s ugly fuel riots, the Daily News reports.
This comes as civil servants and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) are also threatening to hold massive demonstrations in response to the worsening economic situation in the country.
In an ominous declaration yesterday, Deputy Information minister Energy Mutodi told the Daily News that the government would not only squash the planned MDC protests, but would also not hesitate to employ the shoot-to-kill policy on violent demonstrators if necessary.
“They (the opposition) are desperate to maintain political relevance among their supporters, having lied to them that they would overthrow the government before the end of last year.
“We will not tolerate anarchy and as such the shoot-to-kill policy that we have authorised against rogue machete-wielding miners will apply to those who will participate in violent and unlawful demonstrations.
“Police will use maximum force in dealing with whoever intends to cause disorder and disturb the peaceful environment that we created for the good of our country,” Mutodi warned.
“The law stipulates that police must be informed of any intention to hold a demonstration.
“The government is fully aware that the MDC wants to see chaos prevailing in the country so that it becomes ungovernable,” he said further.
This comes as the MDC has said that it plans to hold massive marches across the country to mark the deaths of people who were killed in January last year when heavily-armed security forces clashed with protesters following sharp fuel hikes.
However, and despite the government’s threats, MDC national youth chairperson Obey Sithole told the Daily News yesterday that they would press ahead with their plans to gather in remembrance of last year’s victims.
“As young people, we are going to do everything within our means to remind the world that on that day a gross crime against humanity was committed under (President Emmerson) Mnangagwa’s instruction.
“We will continue to demand answers on the efforts that have been made to bring the culprits to book. We are going to have commemorations across the country.
“It is our belief that justice delayed is justice denied. Therefore, in the absence of a clear course of justice, we are committed and determined to enforce the presence of justice,” Sithole said.
“Thus, we are certainly going to have a programme to commemorate our heroes who did not only die, but were killed by the current ruthless and clueless regime.
“We are not forgetful. So, and in remembrance and in the interests of respecting the departed martyrs, we are going to resolutely act in a manner that befits their martyrdom.
“People cannot just be killed and the world forgets. It certainly must be costly and punishable to kill,” Sithole further told the Daily News.
It also emerged yesterday that MDC president Nelson Chamisa has scheduled a national address within the coming few days — although it could not be immediately established what this would be about.
His spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda confirmed to the Daily News Chamisa’s forthcoming address, but would not provide finer details.
“There will be a national address (by Chamisa) very shortly … Yes in the next few days,” was all he would say.
Zimbabwe was engulfed by deadly riots in January last year over sharp fuel price hikes that were announced by Mnangagwa before he embarked on a trip to Eastern Europe.
Then, the government increased the price of petrol from US$1,32 to a whopping US$3,31 a litre — while diesel which was pegged at US$1,24 was hiked to an equally stiff US$3,11 per litre.
As a result, riots broke out in Harare and Bulawayo leading to the death of 17 people at the hands of security forces.
Rights groups and medical doctors also said that more than 100 people were treated for gunshot wounds, while several women reported cases of rape by security agents.
On its part, the government blamed the killings on “rogue elements” within the security sector.
The chaos came after thousands of workers had heeded a three-day strike call by the ZCTU.
The January 2019 killings came hardly six months after soldiers had also slain six civilians during ugly disturbances which occurred on August 1, 2018 — a day after the country’s historic harmonised elections.
The threat of renewed heightened tensions in the country come as there are growing calls for Mnangagwa and Chamisa to set aside their political differences and hold talks which are seen as the only way of extricating Zimbabwe from its worsening economic rot.
Interestingly, both rivals have previously and separately said they were willing to engage in dialogue to end the growing crisis.
However, and despite their encouraging statements, no formal and direct talks have taken place between them.
On his part, Mnangagwa has remained resolute in his demands that any talks with Chamisa should be held under the platform of the political actors’ dialogue (Polad) — where he regularly holds meetings with leaders of fringe opposition parties, who a large cross-section of Zimbabweans has dismissed as hopeless tokens, particularly as the youthful MDC boss is not part of this structure.
Chamisa himself has repeatedly ruled out joining Polad — demanding instead direct dialogue with Mnangagwa.
All this comes as Zimbabwe is in the grip of a mega economic crisis which has seen the country battling soaring inflation and rampant unemployment, among other myriad challenges.
So serious is the economic crisis that Zimbabweans are having to endure debilitating shortages of fuel, water, critical medicines at public hospitals, foreign currency and power.
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki — who helped to broker the stability-inducing 2008 government of national unity between former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Mnangagwa’s predecessor Robert Mugabe, who are both late — has impressed upon the local political leadership the urgent need for them to work together to end the country’s economic crisis.
His recent visit to Harare was part of the plans by the regional Sadc bloc and the African Union to end Zimbabwe’s long-running political dispute which is threatening to destabilise the entire sub-region.

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