PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday warned that opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa could be arrested if he continues to incite his supporters to picket at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec)’s offices in a bid to disrupt Monday’s general elections.
The threat came as police blocked Chamisa’s planned mass demonstrations scheduled for today, with the law enforcers citing manpower shortages.
The opposition presidential candidate has vowed to block the holding of elections until Zec has guaranteed transparency and security of the vote.
Addressing a Zanu PF campaign rally at Mubaira growth point in Mhondoro, Mnangagwa said the law would deal with any malcontents bent on disturbing the peace obtaining in the country ahead of the polls.
“As political parties, we signed a pledge for peace ahead of elections. All 55 parties taking part in the elections signed, but to my surprise, some little boy and a small party turns around to say he wants to shut down Harare.
Oooooh, my father Shumba! How does he want to achieve that? As who? Getting support from where?” he queried rhetorically.
“I heard that he changed his heart and said he wanted peace and if he does that, we welcome him. He is our son, we allow him to traverse throughout the country asking for your vote, but if he chooses chaos, law and order will prevail.”
The Zanu PF presidential candidate warned his arch-rival, saying: “If you act in a peaceful manner, we will not touch you. You will stay in opposition doing your things while time moves and we will continue ruling over you. We can’t close out opposition because we need it. If it’s not there, then we won’t have anyone to rule over.”
The threats of arrest also came as Zec and opposition parties yesterday reached a deadlock over how next week’s elections would be conducted, with the electoral body insisting there was no more room for further concessions on the electoral roadmap.
Tempers flared during a multi-party-liaison committee meeting in Harare after Zec commissioner Qhubani Moyo shot down demands made by the MDC Alliance, prompting a heated debate, with opposition officials accusing the electoral management body of colluding with Zanu PF to run a sham poll in favour of Mnangagwa’s government.
The remarks drew the ire of two Zanu PF representatives, Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana and Nick Mangwana, who immediately stormed out of the meeting.
“If you have issues, talk to Zec, not Zanu PF. You cannot continue to accuse my party without substantiation. People do not understand how these things work. You raise the issues to the constitutional body, not Zanu PF,” Munyaradzi, the Zanu PF legal secretary, said before he walked out.
Nick weighed in, saying: “Why do you accuse Zanu PF when you are not happy with the referee?”
Norton independent parliamentary candidate, Temba Mliswa tore into the MDC Alliance, blasting it for its threats to picket at the Zec offices over electoral reforms while not doing much on the ground to win the polls.
“The election situation is way better than ever before. We cannot have a perfect election, but let us appreciate that it is way much better than of any other country in the world. Rallies and demonstrations will not work. Candidates should go on the ground to talk to people, and I am the one doing that, while the MDCs are busy marching in the streets. We do not want cheap politics here,” Mliswa said.
He also attacked both the MDC Alliance and Zanu PF for fielding candidates with tainted backgrounds.
Chamisa has since called for an emergency meeting with his close lieutenants today to review the situation.
In turning down the MDC Alliance demonstration, Harare police boss, identified as Chief Superintendent A Ncube, said they were now busy with election preparations and could not spare some officers to escort the demonstrators.
“You are advised that currently, the district is engaged in final preparations for elections deployment scheduled for July 30, 2018. Our members are engaged in training and collection of kit as well as final deployment strategies/other political rallies,” Ncube said.
“You are advised that the venue at which you intend to gather, i.e. the Africa Unity Square, is currently being utilised by the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Recreation from Tuesday July 17, 2018 to Saturday August 4, 2018, who are celebrating the arts, culture and heritage policy of Zimbabwe.”
Chamisa has bitterly complained about the way Zec has handled the pre-election process, especially the printing of ballots, which he described as controversial.
According to MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, the party’s national executive will meet today to decide their next course of action following the latest developments.
“This (ban) is totally unfair and uncalled for. It’s a ploy by Zanu PF to slow us down. Our previous demonstrations have been peaceful and exemplary. There was no need to ban it, as if there would be violence,” he said.
“Given this latest development, our party national executive will meet tomorrow (today) to review the political environment as well as participation in the election.”