Tensions rising over Zim crises…as battle lines are drawn ahead of planned July 31 mass demo

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Mugove Tafirenyika

SENIOR STAFF WRITER
tafirenyikam@dailynews.co.zw

AMID rising tensions over the country’s worsening economic rot, analysts have once again implored President Emmerson Mnangagwa to hold talks with his political rivals and civil society leaders to end Zimbabwe’s myriad crises, the Daily News reports.

This comes as the church and other concerned groups are also ramping up their efforts to foster dialogue between Mnangagwa and his political foes — saying this is critical to avoid total chaos in the country.
It also comes as the opposition and pro-democracy organisations are mobilising for a massive protest on July 31 — in a bid to force Mnangagwa and his government to act on the country’s deepening economic crisis, its worst in a decade.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, political analysts warned that the planned protests at the end of the month were likely to be met with State brutality — which was why national dialogue was critical.
Respected University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, said the mooted national talks were important as Mnangagwa could not expect the country’s problems to go away on their own.
“The call for demonstrations is warranted, defendable and legitimate because the situation has become desperate for Zimbabweans.
“However, the heavy hand of the State awaits those that will partake in the planned demonstration, and in the face of Covid-19 authorities will not hesitate to use a hammer to kill a fly.
“The State will likely go into its default mode of heavy-handedness to send a strong signal, like what happened with previous flash demonstrations, including the recent one in Warren Park,” Masunungure told the Daily News.
“The opposition, therefore, has limited options because the freedom to demonstrate is only on paper. The democratic space is
under lock and key.
“The reality is that nothing will change unless political gladiators in the country dialogue. ED should also realise that he has tried all he can to work on the economy on his own, and he has failed.
“His own supporters probably agree on this abysmal failure and also on the fact that all that needed to go wrong since he came to power in 2017 has gone awfully wrong.
“The only viable solution is thus a roundtable dialogue with the so-called enemies of the State (political rivals),” Masunungure further told the Daily News.
“He (ED) might have the stick, but the solution lies in him opening his mouth and calling his adversaries to speak with them, and that is not expensive. His current stance is the obstacle to commonsensical solutions.
“So, he has to change his attitude and acknowledge that things are getting worse despite the fact that the other political gladiators from the opposition are also egoistic. He has more to lose,” he added.
The International Crisis Group’s senior consultant for southern Africa, Piers Pigou, also warned that the planned protests were likely to be met with force — like what happened in August 2018 and January last year when security forces killed innocent protesters.
“In a context of selective adherence to lockdown provisions, it seems likely there will be a heavy-handed response, especially if permission is not secured.
“It need not be so, and the authorities could put in place a more flexible approach that contains the parameters of protest to protect life and property, if and when needed.
“Sadly, from previous experience it seems unlikely the security forces are equipped to respond with appropriate calibration,” Pigou told the Daily News.
“This takes Zimbabwe nowhere and reinforces the perception that this administration is not serious about reform.
“Mnangagwa appears to support a notion of dialogue that is not in accordance with the sort of dialogue that is required,” he added.
Another political analyst, Rashweat Mukundu, said authorities were likely to take advantage of the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions — that outlaw gatherings of more than 50 people — to thwart the planned July 31 demonstrations.
“It is within the constitutional rights of the citizens of Zimbabwe to protest, yet consideration has to be made of the current Covid-19 situation.
“We must be careful that the pandemic situation does not become an excuse to take away citizen rights.
“As has been stated in other forums, including calls by the South Africa International Relations minister, the two influential political leaders who must engage in dialogue are Nelson Chamisa and ED,” Mukundu told the Daily News.
“This has been Chamisa’s call that he wants to meet ED, yet ED has stuck to Polad, which for all intents and purposes is a body of political nonentities.
“So, it is up to ED to be magnanimous and engage towards a reduction to end the crisis. Protests are unlikely to end but rather increase as the economic situation continues to worsen,” he added.
Yesterday, the leader of Transform Zimbabwe (TZ), Jacob Ngarivhume — who is the main player behind the planned demonstrations — said preparations for the protests were gathering pace.
“Some of you have felt that July 31 is too far to express our displeasure and desire to see action against looters. I agree. So, our work leading up to this big day has started.
“We need volunteers in the legal fraternity to put strong pressure on law enforcement and the judiciary to do their job, stop (authorities from) targeting demonstrators and start going after the looters to recover millions of dollars being siphoned from the system daily.

 

“We need volunteers to make posters, banners and flags to start waving every day in solidarity with our unions.
“The banners, posters and flags can be any colour representing the diversity of this movement — but bearing the simple message LOOTERS MUST GO,” Ngarivhume said.
Build Zimbabwe Alliance leader Noah Manyika also said it was now time to end the country’s “nightmare”.
“There is time in the life of a broken nation when no sectarian interests, no wilful indifference can provide anyone with any safety.
“That time is now and is the reason I support any action by any Zimbabwean to end the country’s nightmare, including what is being planned for July 31.
“No tribe, politically-connected businessman, politician, soldier or police is safe from the ravages of Zanu PF’s corrupt misrule, brutality and the pandemic that is only getting worse because of the conditions they have created.
“There is no superman who is going to do what you can do for yourself,” Manyika said.
This comes as Zimbabweans are reeling from the effects of the country’s dying economy, which has triggered panic and fears of a return to the horror situation of 2008.
Despite being feted like a king when he replaced the late former president Robert Mugabe, following the nonagenarian’s stunning ouster by the military in the widely supported November 2017 putsch, Mnangagwa and his government have found the task of repairing the country’s broken economy very tough.
To underline how troubled the economy has become, the government all but signalled a return to dollarisation last month — after under pressure Finance minister Mthuli Ncube awarded civil servants and pensioners’ allowances in US dollars.
In 2008, Zimbabwe binned its worthless currency and introduced the multi-currency system which was anchored by the US dollar.
Despite this system having served the country well for more than a decade, Ncube rattled the markets in June last year when he prematurely and ill-advisedly ended the local use of the US dollar and other foreign currencies.
And as the economy continues to tank, more and more people are imploring Mnangagwa and Chamisa to end their brawling which stemmed from the disputed 2018 presidential election.

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