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After ZANU PF, Zambia is now the biggest security threat to opposition and civil society actors in Zimbabwe

By Tendai Chabvuta

Hakainde Hichilema has been inaugurated as the 7th President of the Republic of Zambia. Opposition leaders across the SADC region have been ecstatic as their comrade, HH won the elections and his victory gave them hope for their own battles in their home countries.

Tendai Chabvuta
Tendai Chabvuta

This is as much as true for Nelson Chamisa and his MDC Alliance in Zimbabwe. However, without wanting to give ideas to ZANU PF or even sound too negative or pessimistic, Zambia’s new situation has the potential of becoming a new security threat for opposition figures and civil society organizations in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe Government has been rattled and is running scared. How they will react towards Zambia, HH and opposition players in Zimbabwe will be interesting.

Zimbabwe’s government rattled

The euphoria that was witnessed in Zimbabwe’s opposition circles rattled the Zimbabwean government so much that they reacted angrily. President ED, only congratulated HH a few days after the announcement of the results. Even after that, ED still went on chide and make nasty remarks that “Zambia was not Zimbabwe” and what happened there would never be repeated in Zimbabwe. Even his twitter warrior lackeys such as Nick Mangwana and George Charamba tried to dismiss the euphoria as unwarranted through their social media handles.

Of course, the anger and dismay is because ZANU PF was and is scared because they cannot fathom being out of power. They know the possibility is very high because Lungu’s situation and the causes of his defeat are not dissimilar to ZANU PF’s.

How will ZANU PF respond?

ZANU PF will respond in their usual knee jerk MUKABARAT kind of reactions. It would not be a surprise if Zimbabwe is already mobilizing its intelligence units to camp in Lusaka and try by all means to have its Embassy strengthened so that it can provide better information on the goings on in HH’s new Government.

Moreover, It would not be news to hear that the Zimbabwe Government will intensify efforts to frustrate Zambia’s President and Government by stifling the country’s proposals and actions in SADC, AU, UN, and other international bodies so that any ideas of sowing seeds of change in Zimbabwe will be thwarted.

Zimbabwe scared that it no longer has its lackey undemocratic counterpart in Lungu

Remember, 2018 when Tendai Biti fled from Zimbabwe and tried to seek asylum in Zambia? This time, it might not be possible for the Zimbabwe Government to ask or demand for such “extraditions” read “favors” from the Zambia Government as they used to do with the now defeated Edgar Lungu. Thus, the fact that the Zimbabwe Government could be running scared going forward is very real.

What is the threat to Zimbabwe’s opposition political parties and civil society organizations?

That Zimbabwe’s government will increase surveillance on civil society groups and opposition forces interacting with Zambian civil society organizations will now be a given. People might want to take it for granted, but the truth of the matter is that the one hour flight to Lusaka from Harare or that road trip to exchange ideas on regime change, democracy etc. might end up being labelled “terrorist” meetings or interactions.

ZANU PF would not have forgotten too early how they managed to isolate and pin terrorism charges on MDC party members who had travelled to Botswana for exchanges on democracy etc. because of the hostilities that were there between Presidents Ian Khama and Robert Mugabe.

Enhanced surveillance on international democracy funders and foreign Embassies interacting with Zimbabwe

The temptation for international institutions to avoid getting into Zimbabwe and then trying to invite Zimbabwean civil society and even political activists into Zambia for exchanging notes will be high but must be watched and exercised with caution.

That the Zimbabwean intelligence services will increase surveillance on who the opposition forces in Zimbabwe will be interacting with especially foreign Embassies based in Lusaka is a given. If the new Government of Zambia will not see “any problems” with such interactions, the likelihood of increased hostilities between the two countries is high.

With possible increased hostilities, the ultimate brunt will be borne by those Zimbabweans who will be “seen” being “trained” by such foreign forces on issues such as media freedoms, human rights, voter mobilization, political participation etc.

Whereto for civil society and opposition forces in Zimbabwe with regards Zambia?

While it will be fashionable to be seen with the Zambian civil society leaders, political leaders from HH’s party for Zimbabwean civil society organizations and opposition political party leaders, the risk of being trailed, observed, harassed, jailed, and even killed is now more pronounced.

The battle lines have been drawn!

Zimbabwe civil society and opposition forces will now need to tread carefully as they celebrate HH’s victory and plan for their own in the possible future. Zambia has now fallen into CRIME/CRIMINAL category equal to treason sekutamba sekuseka.

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