Tension mounts ahead of July 31 . . . as Sikhala asserts demos will proceed, Zanu PF vows robust ‘defence’
At the same time, combative MDC deputy national chairperson, Job “Wiwa” Sikhala, said defiantly that the July 31 anti-government demonstrations would go ahead despite the crackdown by authorities on some of the organisers.
Addressing a media conference in Harare yesterday, acting Zanu PF spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa also warned the United States of America’s (USA) ambassador to Zimbabwe, Brian Nichols, that he risked being expelled from the country for allegedly funding government critics.
Regarding the planned demos, he said the party’s supporters needed no permission from anyone to “defend themselves, their families, spouses, children, property and possessions” on Friday.
“During the August 1, 2018 … and January 14, 2019 violence … our supporters phoned us from Chiredzi, Chipinge, Masvingo asking for protection. We were unable to provide them that protection and safety then.
“What we are saying to our supporters and people is that they must know that when they are attacked (on Friday), law enforcement agents may not be anywhere near the scenes of crime.
“They must know that in those circumstances, their first line of defence is themselves and their families,” Chinamasa bellowed. “They have a legal and constitutional right to defend themselves, their families, spouses, children, property and possessions.“Don’t ask for permission from anybody, it’s your constitutional and legal right. Don’t be intimidated by hooligans and mercenaries. “Don’t be like sitting ducks as you were in August of 2018 and January 2019 phoning us. No, this time use any means at your disposal to defend yourselves and we are saying this unambiguously,” Chinamasa added.
“We are reminding our people that self-defence is right, especially when your security is under threat from these violent protesters,” he said further.
In August 2018 and January 2019, several people were shot and killed by security forces during respective violent demonstrations over the delayed release of election results and steep fuel price hikes.
The government blamed the opposition and pro-democracy groups at the time for fomenting the violence, which brought back into sharp focus Harare’s respect for constitutional freedoms and human rights.
Regarding Nichols and other Western diplomats, the ruling party accused them yesterday of funding the opposition and some civil society groups — allegedly to topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government from power.
The agitated Chinamasa warned Nichols that the he was playing with fire and would be expelled from the country for his alleged role in “funding destabilising activities by the opposition”.
“We remind … Nichols and his coterie of gangsters and mercenaries disguised as diplomats that it is high time they get to know that Zimbabwe is a sovereign republic and full State under the Montevideo Convention (a treaty that was signed at Montevideo in Uruguay in 1933, and which codifies the declarative theory of statehood as part of customary international law).
“If he (Nichols) continues to engage in acts of undermining this republic, mobilising and funding disturbances, co-ordinating violence and training insurgents, our leadership will not hesitate to give him his marching orders.
“Diplomats should not behave like thugs. Brian Nichols is a thug. Zanu PF reminds Nichols that he is not a super diplomat in this country,” Chinamasa thundered.
“There are several diplomats that are seconded to this republic from the African Union member countries and the world over. “They have never masqueraded and pretended to be our prefects as … Nichols is doing. Zimbabwe is not one of the states or provinces that make the USA.
“We fought for this country to preserve it and protect it, not to surrender it to those from whom we tirelessly fought. Never in our lifetime,” Chinamasa said further.
“Christopher Dell (former USA ambassador to Zimbabwe) tried it and the shoes proved too big for him. Don’t dare!” he added.
All this comes as there are growing fears that the planned July 31 protests could turn bloody after several threats from both authorities and Zanu PF.
It has not helped matters that the protests are due to be held at a time that the government has imposed a tough dusk-to-dawn curfew, which authorities hope will help to combat the spread of the lethal coronavirus in the country.
The killer virus has so far killed nearly 40 people and infected close to 3 000 others since it was first reported in the country in March.
Meanwhile, and despite the warnings from Zanu PF, as well as the curfew and the recent arrests of some of the demo organisers, Sikhala told the Daily News yesterday that “nothing will stand in the way of the protests”.
“I have received reports that teams have been deployed throughout the country hunting for me.
“The country is suffering whilst the State is deploying resources of magnificent proportion to hunt for one individual. I am far ahead of them.
“Hunting for me is a sheer waste of time. Zimbabwe is bigger than any individual. Fix the problem and don’t persecute opponents.
“This will never stop the voice of the people whose time has come,” the tough-talking Sikhala said.
“This is the only project the dimwits presiding over our affairs are good at — abducting, assassinating and committing crimes against humanity, instead of improving their lives.
“Commitment to the cause of the people should be without question. This is a demonstration against looting and corruption and has absolutely nothing to do with threat to power.
“This is purely a people’s call against corruption,” Sikhala told the Daily News.
“Our brothers and sisters in the security sector know only too well that they are also suffering because their share of decent salaries is being eaten somewhere by other people.
“They should rather be on the forefront of supporting citizens who are fighting on their behalf. Those people do not have anything to show for their sweat except their paltry salaries.
“They cannot build a house for themselves. They will retire in poverty,” the Zengeza West legislator said further.
“Their children go to the worst schools … Their families scrounge for decent meals.
“We want decency for them as well. We want them to be proud defenders of our sovereignty and territorial integrity in happiness.
“They must move in our streets with pride not scorn. The people of Zimbabwe want them to live well. Someone is eating on their behalf,” the lawyer-cum-politician added.
Meanwhile, expelled former Zanu PF legislator for Chivi South, Killer Zivhu, has warned of bloodshed if the protests go ahead.
“Let us avoid bloodshed. There is no hungry man who can have a peaceful demonstration. They will destroy properties and in so doing the security personnel will respond in order to stop the violence.
“We are all Zimbabweans. Let’s come together,” he said, repeating his recent calls for national dialogue.
All this comes as Zimbabwe is in the grip of a huge economic crisis, its worst in over a decade, and which has stirred anger among its long suffering citizens.