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Zimbabwe opposition supporters feel sharp edge of Zanu-PF knife in segue to elections

Zimbabwe opposition supporters feel sharp edge of Zanu-PF knife in segue to elections
Front pages of newspapers in Harare, Zimbabwe, 1 June 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Aaron Ufumeli)

Political temperatures are running high in Zimbabwe ahead of this year’s general elections, amid opposition accusations of the use of violence and intimidation by the ruling Zanu-PF. 

Zimbabwe’s main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party led by Nelson Chamisa is accusing president Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu-PF of targeting its supporters in some parts of the southern African nation as the country gears up for the 23 August 2023 general elections.

Prior to the proclamation of the election date by Mnangagwa, Chamisa accused his rival of gangsterism after some of his rallies were blocked by the police and violence was meted out to his supporters by vigilante groups aligned to the ruling party.

In Masvingo Province, opposition members accused the police of blocking Chamisa’s rally that was set for Tshovani Stadium in Chiredzi town, about 430km south of the capital, where eight of his supporters were arrested. 

Former deputy information minister Energy Mutodi allegedly fired live ammunition towards CCC supporters who were reportedly waiting for their leader to address them at Baradzanwa Business Centre on Thursday.

CCC, Zimbabwe

CCC supporter in Hurungwe West constituency shows his torn party regalia. (Photo: Frank Chikowore)

“Mutodi came to the venue with two trucks carrying Zanu-PF members and started throwing stones at CCC members. When the citizens started to advance towards Zanu-PF members to question their motive, Mutodi then pulled out a pistol and fired two shots towards the CCC members and sped away in his H2 Hummer. He was in the company of Kumbirai Ziki, a known FAZ member in Bikita South,” said CCC activist Farai Chikadzi over the phone. It could not be established if anyone was injured during the skirmishes.

In Hurungwe district in Mashonaland West Province, the opposition’s  parliamentary candidate for Hurungwe West Constituency, Innocent Zvarevashe, claimed that one of his campaign vehicles was attacked by suspected Zanu-PF members, leaving its windows shattered.

“We were at Doro Business Centre where Zanu-PF members came in their vehicle and tore party regalia that I had distributed to CCC supporters. I proceeded to Ngoresha shops where some Zanu-PF thugs ambushed me and attacked my car using catapults, resulting in one of the car’s windows being damaged,” said Zvarevashe who added that opposition supporters in his constituency were now living in fear.

Innocent Zvarevashe, Zimbabwe

CCC candidate Innocent Zvarevashe’s car had its windows smashed in political violence in the Hurungwe district. (Photo: Supplied)

Human rights advocate targeted

Top human rights lawyer Obey Shava said he was attacked by suspected State Security agents, who claimed to be potential clients, a day after the high court had acquitted three CCC activists on charges of faking their abduction and subsequent torture. 

Shava, who is one of the legal practitioners who represented Joanna Mamombe, Cecelia Chimbiri and Netsai Marowa following their abduction, suffered severe injuries on his legs after he was beaten and left for dead. The unknown assailants were yet to be arrested, according to the police who say they are still investigating the matter.

Obey Shava

Human rights lawyer Obey Shava lies on a hospital bed after being attacked by suspected state security agents. (Photo: Supplied)

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights condemned Shava’s attack: “We believe that this savage attack on Shava is a desperate attempt to silence and deter him from doing his critical work as a legal practitioner. No lawyer should be assaulted, intimidated or interfered with in the execution of his professional duties,” said ZLHR spokesperson Kumbirai Mafunda. 

Meanwhile, CCC spokesperson, Fadzayi Mahere called on police to take swift action before violence spreads to other parts of the country as political campaigns gather momentum ahead of the election.

“We condemn these violent and criminal acts and call for the urgent arrest of the perpetrators. We expect the police to act swiftly to bring those who are unleashing violence on our peaceful supporters during our lawful campaign activities. 

Obey Shava, Zimbabwe

Injuries sustained by human rights lawyer Obey Shava after being attacked by suspected state security agents. (Photo: Supplied)

“This demonstrates beyond doubt that Zanu-PF is terrified and well aware that they can never win a free and fair election in Zimbabwe. We remain defiant and ready to secure a citizens’ victory for change against all odds,” said Mahere.

Zanu-PF information director Tafadzwa Mugwadi laughed off the CCC claims saying the opposition party was clueless.

“Chamisa and his clueless and structureless party have no shame; they do not have the support of the people; this is why they are cooking up all these stories. They know very well that they are going to lose the elections on 23 August. Assuming that any violence occurred, they should approach the police who will entertain them and conduct investigations,” said Mugwadi.

Tafadzwa Mugwadi, Zimbabwe

Zanu-PF information director Tafadzwa Mugwadi. (Photo: Frank Chikowore)

National police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, encouraged political parties to conduct their campaigns peacefully adding that the police would not hesitate to arrest anyone found on the wrong side of the law.

“No one is above the law; we are going to arrest anyone who would be found on the wrong side of the law. As the police we are saying ‘No’ to violence as we approach these elections. We have deployed our teams in all the districts countrywide to ensure that peace is maintained before, during and after these elections. All cases that are reported to us will be dealt with without fear or favour,” said Nyathi.

The opposition has also blamed Forever Associates of Zimbabwe — a shadowy group linked to the country’s spy network, the Central Intelligence Organisation — which has been accused by the opposition of interfering in the electoral process resulting in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission producing a voters’ roll that has been branded as “shambolic” by the opposition.

Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said the violence being reported in some parts of the country was compromising the credibility of the polls.

“The integrity of the 2023 election is already compromised. There is no doubt that the ruling party, the security structures and the electoral management body have all conspired to manipulate the electoral process to favour Zanu-PF so it is not surprising at all that the police are banning CCC rallies and that opposition supporters are being beaten up across Zimbabwe. This is a well-orchestrated political strategy that is intended to instil fear within the generality of opposition supporters,” said Mukundu.

He added that the opposition should not give in despite the shenanigans of the Mnangagwa administration.

History of censorship, violence

In the 2018 elections, Chamisa disputed the results of the elections alleging vote-rigging by Mnangagwa and his party but his court challenge was thrown out by the Constitutional Court for lack of evidence. 

In 2009, Chamisa’s predecessor and founder of the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, formed a unity government with the late former president Robert Mugabe after Zanu-PF ran a violent campaign in the 2008 presidential runoff vote that left dozens of opposition supporters dead while others were displaced. Tsvangirai pulled out of the second round of voting declaring that “I am not going to go to State House walking over dead bodies.”

Violent elections and human rights violations saw Zimbabwe’s top leadership being put under sanctions by the West. However, the Harare administration claimed that it was being punished for embarking on agrarian reforms that empowered majority black Zimbweans, displacing over 400 white commercial farmers and leaving thousands of their farm workers without any source of income.

Economists blame the chaotic land reforms for Zimbabwe’s economic downturn, while Mnangagwa and his cronies are blaming the restrictive measures for the economic upheaval. DM

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