By Fungi Kwaramba
With a few days to go into the new year, the omens don’t look good politically in 2019, following the Zanu PF youth league’s ominous threats this week against the country’s opposition forces.
In shocking remarks which have evoked bad memories of Zimbabwe’s body politic under former president Robert Mugabe’s decades of violent and ruinous rule, the ruling party’s youth league boss, Pupurai Togarepi, promised that they would crush all dissenting voices in the new year.
Mugabe, who was toppled from power in November 2017 — after nearly four decades as Zimbabwe’s supreme leader — routinely unleashed violent youths, war veterans and law enforcement agents to crush dissent.
At the height of his power, he even boasted at one time that he and Zanu PF had “degrees in violence” — in mortifying comments which shocked the world.
Analysts who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said the youth league’s utterances, if acted out, would plunge the country into a bigger political and economic crisis than is currently being experienced.
Zimbabwe is going through its worst economic crises since the horror of a decade ago, as the country battles shortages of fuel, basic consumer goods and medical drugs.
This has seen President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who narrowly avoided defeat to opposition leader Nelson Chamisa in the hotly-contested July 30 election, increasingly coming under pressure to stem the rot.
In his remarks, which have been widely condemned, Togarepi warned on social media this week that they would deal ruthlessly with “anyone who tries to remove or attack Mnangagwa” in 2019.
“We have been tolerant … before and after elections. We won’t take any prisoners in 2019. Any provocation will be confronted head-on. The rules of the game have completely changed.
“Don’t insult others if you don’t want to be insulted. If you insult our leaders we will insult you. If you harass us in any way we will respond with equal measure. If you respect the president’s call for peace and unity we’ll respect you,” he said.
“We have been preaching peace while some insult and call for sanctions. Mnangagwa calls for unity and peace and some insult him and his leadership.
“The president focuses on economy, others are still in election mode. We can also insult. Your choice will be reciprocated,” Togarepi added in his ill-conceived rant.
It was not clear yesterday what had triggered Togarepi’s rant, although its timing coincided with widespread disgruntlement by long-suffering Zimbabweans who are enduring one of the worst festive seasons since the country’s independence from Britain in 1980.
The main MDC said the threats by the Zanu PF youth league were regrettable, but added that they would not stop them from pressuring Mnangagwa’s government into addressing the country’s deepening economic crisis.
“His (Togarepi’s) statement is criminal and unfortunate. In an era where countries are competing and bragging about innovation, transformation and opportunity creation, it is shocking that a senior member of a political party brags about the violent nature of his organisation.
“Togarepi is a national embarrassment who unfortunately represents the wider violent nature of Zanu PF,” MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume said.
Togarepi’s threats came as popular dancehall musician Winky D was forced to ditch a show in Kwekwe last week, after rowdy crowds — said to be Zanu PF sympathisers — threw missiles at the stage in protest over his presence in the gold mining town.
Winky D is currently riding high with his new offering titled KaSong KeJecha, which has found resonance among MDC supporters who popularised the “kudira jecha” statement when Chamisa approached the Constitutional Court (Con-Court) in August — after he rejected the July 30 presidential election result.
“Kudira jecha” is Shona street lingo which loosely means playing a spoiling game.
Political analysts also told the Daily News yesterday that Togarepi’s statements exposed the culture of “Mugabeism” which was still rampant within many sections of Zanu PF when it came to dealing with dissenting voices.
“Togarepi’s statements betray the truth about Zanu PF’s view and approach in dealing with dissenting voices, which is an indication of the continuation of the Mugabe politics.
“These messages undo the cheap talk that the ED government is about democracy and economic revival since these people are close associates of ED.
“We can say without doubt that these people’s views represent those of the leadership and in this regard Zimbabwe is in for more years of authoritarianism,” political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said.
Chamisa has been brawling with Mnangagwa ever since he narrowly lost the hotly-disputed July 30 presidential election — whose result he vigorously challenged at the Con-Court.
The youthful opposition leader even went to the extent of accusing the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) of manipulating the poll results in favour of the Zanu PF leader.
But Mnangagwa’s victory was upheld by the Con-Court, which ruled that Chamisa had failed to provide evidence that he had won the election.
Last month, he held a massive demonstration in Harare where he lashed Mnangagwa, exhorting the president to act on the deteriorating political and economic situation
in the country.
Meanwhile, church leaders and other influential people have implored both Mnangagwa and Chamisa to end their bickering by holding talks aimed at addressing the deteriorating economic and political situation in the country.
Chamisa recently met with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa as part of his efforts to try and resolve the current crises in the country.
“I told him that there is no confidence (in Zimbabwe) because there is no political stability … the elections were rigged.
“The elections were rigged because the result of what the people voted for was not the one that was announced. So, there is need to go back to what the source of the problem is,” Chamisa said of his meeting with Ramaphosa in Pretoria.
South Africa, which is Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner, is seen as having the greatest potential influence on local national politics, including the mooted dialogue between Chamisa and Mnangagwa.
In 2008, the neighbouring country’s former president, Thabo Mbeki, was instrumental in brokering talks which led to the formation of a GNU between Mugabe and the late MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai — following that year’s hotly-disputed elections.
Mbeki’s mediation culminated in the signing of the global political agreement (GPA), which paved the way for the formation of the unity government in February 2009.
The popular Tsvangirai had trounced Mugabe hands down in the disputed 2008 presidential election.
The results of those elections were withheld for six long weeks by stunned authorities — amid widespread allegations of ballot tampering and fraud, which were later confirmed by former bigwigs of the ruling party.
In the ensuing sham presidential run-off, which authorities claimed was needed to determine the winner, Zanu PF apparatchiks engaged in an orgy of violence in which hundreds of Tsvangirai’s supporters were killed — forcing the former prime minister in the inclusive government to withdraw from the discredited race altogether.
Mugabe went on to stand in a widely-condemned one-man race in which he shamelessly declared himself the winner.
Zimbabwe is currently deep in the throes of a mega economic crisis which has resulted in shortages of basic consumer goods and medicines.
Apart from shortages of drugs and basic goods, the government is also battling acute shortages of foreign currency which have seen the re-emergence of long fuel queues.
The government is also struggling to end the doctors’ strike which has crippled services within the country’s failing public health sector. Daily News