By Blessed Mhlanga, Desmond Chingarande and Phyllis Mbanje
Opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa has psyched up hard-pressed Zimbabweans to liberate themselves from the heavy Zanu PF yoke which he claims has shrunk the democratic space and deprived citizens of the much-needed breath.
Chamisa, evicted from his party headquarters by his rival Thokozani Khupe of the MDC-T with the aid of armed soldiers and police in a Thursday night raid, yesterday tweeted: “We can’t breathe.”
Apparently, these were the last words by slain African-American George Floyd, who was choked to death by police late last month, triggering unprecedented mass riots against United States President Donald Trump’s administration.
“It’s not about me or the MDC Alliance, it is about the people of Zimbabwe, the democratic space is being choked by Zanu PF and it is time we act, draw a line in the sand or we will be choked to death,” he said.
“Look at how everyone has become an enemy of the State and under siege, first it was the doctors, then they came after journalists, then lawyers, human rights activists, the whole nation can’t breathe now,” he said.
Human rights watchdogs locally and abroad have raised concern over increased human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, which drew international condemnation.
But Zanu PF acting spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa last week shot down reports of human rights abuses and dictatorship by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, saying there was no repression in the country to justify protests.
He, instead urged Zimbabweans to protest against sanctions imposed by the US government which he claimed had economically choked the southern African nation. His sentiments were, however, dismissed by the opposition and Western diplomats as a sideshow.
The clampdown on human rights defenders climaxed last week with the arrest of Chamisa’s lawyer Thabani Mpofu for allegedly falsifying the signature of a “non-existent” Simbarashe Zuze in a Constitutional Court challenge over the appointment of Prosecutor-General Kumbirai Hodzi.
This was later followed by the arrest of his party executives on Friday after they attempted to reclaim their party headquarters sealed off by security forces.
Chamisa on Saturday also accused his political detractors of fomenting a culture of hate, label, condemnation and terrorism in the country.
Chamisa, who was accused of receiving advice and funding from former members of the vanquished G40 faction of Zanu PF in the run-up to the 2018 harmonised elections, said clueless leaders thrived on labelling opponents.
“Yes, I am G40, my age is 42, so what? It is a Zanu PF party culture of label and condemnation. I am not seeking to be the president of MDC. I am already the president of MDC Alliance and I am not going to be reduced into petty fights. I am seeking to establish national consensus for all people.
“I am not going to label people condemning them because of who they are. I know I am going to lead Zimbabwe including Mnangagwa and his Zanu PF, so I am going to lead the entire nation. Why should I say I don’t want to see Mnangagwa when you are a leader you must unify people.
That is my fundamental problem with Mnangagwa. Instead of unifying people, he is waging a gap of hatred within people,” Chamisa said.
Chamisa said the petty fights in the opposition were being engineered by Mnangagwa with the aid of security forces to destroy him politically.
“Mnangagwa is forgetting real issues on the ground that include a collapsing the economy, the economy is in the doldrums and corruption has become the new national religion. We are being treated like this because we have refused to be involved in their mess of abusing citizens,” he said.
In reference to the Thursday night raid and seizure of his party offices, Chamisa said: “These are desperate attempts by individuals who have realised how desperate their circumstances are. It is a passing phase.
“We know this issue has been visited upon us by our brother Mnangagwa. This is not an MDC issue, but was visited upon us by Mnangagwa. We don’t want this Banyamlenge or Al-Shabaab mentality.
“They come in the dead of the night to take over our party headquarters, are you a witch? It’s very unfortunate, but we are not worried about it because we have been in politics for a long time,” he said.
The US Senate on Foreign Affairs Committee also accused the Zimbabwean government of going all out to obliterate the opposition instead of addressing real unresolved issues which include COVID-19, the deepening economic crisis and humanitarian despair.
Senator for Delaware Chris Coons speaking on the issue said: “I’m watching the situation in Zimbabwe with deep concern. The violent takeover of the MDC headquarters is unacceptable.
“The arrest of opposition political party leaders, including Tendai Biti is unacceptable. I oppose any attempt to erode political rights of the Zimbabwean people.” NewsDay