By Everson Mushava and Blessed Mhlanga | NewsDay |
Daggers have been drawn between President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu PF and the Nelson Chamisa-led MDC over the latter’s Friday protests, with Zanu PF political commissar and Defence deputy minister Victor Matemadanda vowing to block the planned demonstrations.
This comes as Mnangagwa yesterday pleaded for peaceful co-existence amid citizens of diverse political persuasions.
Addressing thousands of people at the national Heroes Day commemorations in Harare, Mnangagwa said economic recovery would only take place in a peaceful environment.
The MDC has set Friday as the start of a series of protests against Mnangagwa’s alleged mismanagement of the economy, which has pushed inflation to new highs amid biting shortages of currency, fuel and electricity.
While the MDC yesterday insisted that they were going ahead with their planned protests even without a police clearance, Matemadanda told NewsDay that government would stand in their way and ensure no demonstrations take place against Mnangagwa’s administration.
“They (MDC) are saying they will demonstrate, but I am telling you that they will not because I know they will not,” Matemadanda told NewsDay on the sidelines of the Heroes Day commemorations at the National Heroes Acre in Harare yesterday.
“If they are going to be peaceful, there is no problem, but we know they have no capacity to demonstrate peacefully. They will preach peaceful demonstrations, only to be violent.
“We saw what they did in January as well as just after the elections,” he said in reference to the August 1, 2018 and January 14-16 protests, which later turned fatal after security agents fired live ammunition on unarmed protesters.
On several occasions, Matemadanda, who also doubles as war veterans secretary-general, has threatened to unleash the military to stop opposition protests.
The military was deployed to quell the August 1, 2018 post-election violence and January 2019 protests over a 150% fuel price hike and the end result was the death of 23 civilians on the two occasions.
The killings dented Mnangagwa’s international re-engagement efforts after initially promising the international community that he would not be like his predecessor, Robert Mugabe, who was slapped with Western sanctions over gross human rights abuses.
“We (government) cannot allow them to loot and destroy property. When war veterans were teargassed by the Mugabe government, they were not destroying anything, so there cannot be any comparison to what they want to do,” Matemadanda added.
But MDC spokesperson Daniel Molokele said the protests would go ahead and preparations were at an advanced stage.
“The protests are going ahead. We are definitely going ahead,” Molokele said. “This is a peaceful march, where we are simply saying enough is enough on the suffering of the people and the government has failed. We need an all-stakeholders conference to take the country forward.”
He added that they had already notified the police as per requirements of the Public Order and Security Act (Posa).
“We applied and the police have not yet responded, but according to Posa, one simply needs to make a notification. Police do not have any power to stop the protest. They will only get involved when the protest becomes violent.”
The MDC claimed it had ring-fenced its planned protest march against infiltration by engaging peace marshals, in addition to electronically monitoring the event following threats by Zanu PF youths to disrupt the proceedings.
Zanu PF youth leader Pupurai Togarepi recently was on record threatening to unleash his troops to stop the MDC protests.
At the national shrine, Mnangagwa, however, pleaded with the restive population, which has borne the brunt of economic stagnation, to be patient and peaceful
while his government implements policies to turn around the country’s economic fortunes.
“As I alluded before, the austerity measures we have undertaken are certainly necessary to guarantee sustainable development and prosperity for our country. To desire quick-fix manoeuvres neglecting fundamentals will be grossly dishonest and a betrayal to the future prospects of our children,” Mnangagwa said.
“I, thus, wish to thank people for their resilience and to further urge them to bear with us as we complete this crucial phase of our policy reforms. Together and with unity of purpose, we shall succeed.
“Allow me, on that note, to express my profound gratitude to all Zimbabweans for their patience and resilience, often against incredible odds, during this period of the reform process.
“The economic reforms are necessary to right-size the economy and reset it for sustainable economic development.
“Going forward, my government is now concentrating on increasing production efficiencies across all the sectors of the economy, starting with agriculture, which is the mainstay of the economy.”
Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe should cherish the peace and stability brought about by the liberation struggle, and urged the country to jealously guard it.
“The experience of war makes people value peace all the more,” Mnangagwa said.
“As such, the defence of the peace and stability we enjoy is paramount and must be undertaken with valour and vigilance. For this reason, violence must continue to be shunned and rejected.
“We shall continue to protect our independence, freedom, justice and democracy which our departed heroes fought for, by accelerating efforts to consolidate constitutionalism, the rule of law by strengthening institutions that support democracy.
“We shall, with greater resolve, protect constitutionally-enshrined rights, fully cognisant, however, of the fact that the enjoyment of such rights is not absolute.”
Mnangagwa added that only dialogue and constructive engagement must be promoted as the centre-piece of national development.
He said his government was making all necessary interventions to ensure that no one dies from hunger following a disastrous agricultural season.