SENIOR STAFF WRITER
POLITICAL tensions continue to escalate in the country, with a bristling President Emmerson Mnangagwa accusing some local churches yesterday of advancing a dangerous agenda against the government, the Daily News reports.
In addition, Mnangagwa also challenged church leaders whom he said might be harbouring political ambitions to formally swap the pulpit for politics and openly start their own political parties.
This comes as Mnangagwa and the government have come under withering criticism from both the Church and rights groups, over alleged gross breaches of human rights in the country.
It also comes as South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa is trying to end Zimbabwe’s long-running political crisis, which has once again attracted international attention.
Addressing the Zanu PF politburo in Harare yesterday, Mnangagwa said the ruling party had generally always enjoyed cordial relations with the Church, dating back to the years of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle.
“However, it is most unfortunate when men of cloth begin to use the pulpit to advance a nefarious agenda for detractors of our country. Those who want to enter the political realm are welcome to do so.
“They must come out and form political parties. As Zanu PF, we are ready for the 2023 elections. We are a people’s party, a party that believes in unity, love, peace and in championing development.
“We fought for the empowerment of our people. Zanu PF is a party that fought for democracy, upholds constitutionalism and the rule of law. Those that choose otherwise will be exposed and rejected,” Mnangagwa said.
The angry Zanu PF leader also accused alleged enemies of his government of fanning violence in the country, in a bid to force him out of power — adding that these people had failed in their plans.
“I want to commend the party and the citizens in general for shunning the machinations of violence and division through the planned ill-fated July 31 insurrection.
“Following their crushing failure, our detractors are evidently in disarray and desperate, and grasping on straws to destroy confidence in our democratically-elected government.
“They are equally in an overdrive to discredit our people-centred programmes,” Mnangagwa said further.
This comes as the government has been accused of gross human rights violations, following the State’s heavy deployment of police and soldiers ahead of the foiled July 31 mass protests.
Rights groups have claimed that dozens of opposition figures and activists have been tortured and assaulted in a retributive exercise by suspected security agents.
Tensions were further stoked last week when Catholic bishops in Zimbabwe issued a stinging letter in which they accused the government of carrying out human rights abuses and instilling fear among the populace.
The bishops said the country was suffering from “a multi-layered crisis” — including economic collapse, deepening poverty, corruption and human rights abuses.
“Fear runs down the spine of many of our people today. The crackdown on dissent is unprecedented. Is this the Zimbabwe we want? To have a different opinion does not mean to be an enemy,” the bishops said.
This also comes as Mnangagwa, who ascended to power via a popular military coup in November 2017, has come under growing pressure from long-suffering Zimbabweans over his government’s failure to mend the country’s broken economy.
As a result of Zimbabwe’s escalating woes, Ramaphosa has stepped in, appointing special envoys — former South Africa vice president Baleka Mbete and ex-ministers Sydney Mufamadi and Ngoako Ramatlhodi — to try and end the decades-long crisis.
The appointment of the envoys came after authorities were accused of gross human rights violations, following the government’s heavy deployment of police and soldiers to thwart the foiled July 31 mass protests.
South Africa and its leaders — including former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma — have in the past successfully mediated Zimbabwe’s political crises.
A decade ago, both Mbeki and Zuma helped to broker the stability-inducing 2008 government of national unity between opposition giant Morgan Tsvangirai and former president Robert Mugabe — who are both late — following the hotly disputed 2008 presidential election.
Zuma also assisted in minimising Zimbabwe’s chaotic approach to the equally disputed 2013 national elections.
Meanwhile, Zanu PF has sacked politburo members Cleveria Chizema and Tendai Savanhu for allegedly showing disloyalty to the former liberation movement and its leaders.
Chizema’s jettisoning was announced by Mnangagwa during yesterday’s politburo meeting.
“The politburo will recall that during its last session we received a preliminary security report on the acts of disloyalty by Comrade Chizema.
“I have since gone through the detailed final security report which reveals gross and glaring acts of disloyalty and treachery … as such she can no longer continue to be a member of the party,” he said.
Last month, the former liberation movement suspended Chizema for allegedly being involved in organising the foiled July 31 demos and for allegedly trying to drive a wedge between Mnangagwa and one of his deputies, Constantino Chiwenga.
Acting Zanu PF spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa said then that the politburo had suspended Chizema after she allegedly failed to report anti-Mnangagwa fliers that were delivered to her home in March this year.
“The member, Cleveria Chizema, did not report the matter … she clearly … vacillated in her responsibilities as a member of the politburo.
“For that reason, the politburo has directed that there be thorough investigations … on how the fliers were delivered to her home … when it happened in March and did not do anything other than trying to call other members to a meeting without disclosing its nature.
“Among one of their futile imaginations is that Chiwenga is planning a coup against Mnangagwa and that the two do not see eye to eye,” Chinamasa said.