Zim political tension rises as brutal government crackdown on opposition leaders and supporters intensifies

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Dark clouds are hanging over Zimbabwe as the impasse over the hotly-contested July 30 presidential election continues — with political analysts warning yesterday that the country is entering “dangerous waters” where there will be no winners, the Daily News can report.

This comes as there are growing allegations of a brutal government crackdown on opposition leaders and supporters — a development which is increasingly receiving wide condemnation from the international community.

It also comes as People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Tendai Biti — one of the principals of the MDC Alliance — has claimed that a State-sponsored assassination attempt had allegedly been made on his life this week.

At the same time, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has strongly denied the allegations which it has said are being “maliciously” spread by social media trolls.

Biti’s lawyer Nqobizitha Mlilo told the Daily News yesterday that a car belonging to the former Finance minister in the government of national unity had earlier this week been shot at after being trailed by unknown people travelling in an unmarked car.

“They tracked the car from his Harare home to Mazowe. His young brother was among the occupants in the car and when they tried to run away that is when they were shot at,” Mlilo said.

Human Rights Watch Southern Africa director Dewa Mavhinga said he had received a distress call from Biti in the early hours of yesterday, and had also been told that the former Finance minister’s car had been shot at.

“I have spoken to Biti and he said his car was shot at. He is unhurt but obviously shaken. There are several cases of a clampdown on MDC Alliance leaders which have recorded.

“We know for sure that in high density suburbs such as Chitungwiza, Glen View and Kuwadzana there have been confirmed reports of beatings of people by people in military wear.

“We are also concerned at the number of people who are missing or have gone into hiding. There have been beatings of people across the country, mostly by people in uniform.

“Most of the people who have been targeted in this clampdown are MDC Alliance leaders,” Mavhinga said.

Contacted for a comment, police spokesperson Charity Charamba said she had no further comments to make following a recent briefing to diplomats by Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo.

“We have heard that soldiers have beaten up people in Chitungwiza, Kuwadzana and Dzivaresekwa areas.

“We have fully investigated this and the head of Chitungwiza hospital has informed us that there were never any people who were formally detained in hospital.

“In fact, it only happened on the day of the violence on August 1 where 14 people who were also victims of the protest came in, but for minor issues and went back.
They were never detained,” Moyo is quoted telling diplomats on Monday.

“Government is not aware of any beatings or abductions so far as has been reported. All what we are realising is that there is a lot of misinformation that is coming out from social media.

“Yes, there may be certain security or police operations which are underway as a result of the death of six people, those normal police operations do not normally end up meaning or being interpreted as some kind of atrocities being perpetrated.

“There may be some people who are being sought, who are directly responsible and have been identified for specific offences on the day in question,” he added.

But the MDC Alliance has asserted that suspected security agents are involved in retributive exercises in which they are targeting senior opposition officials and polling agents, following the insistence by the party’s presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa that he won the presidential election.

Chamisa says the results of that poll have been fiddled with by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) in favour of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who polled 50,8 percent of the vote to avoid going into a runoff with the youthful MDC Alliance leader who got 44,3 percent.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) has also said that it has received reports of many missing people who are said to have either gone into hiding or fled alleged acts of retribution.

“I can confirm that we have received a number of calls from our structures advising us about the people that have gone missing in the last few days. There is a possibility that some of them have gone into hiding or the suspicion that they could have been abducted.

“So far we got information from Mt Darwin and Mudzi where we are getting reports of people that are missing since last Wednesday following the army shootings that took place in Harare’s city centre. In total, we have about 14 people that we have heard have gone missing,” ZimRights executive director Okay Machisa told the Daily News yesterday.

A joint statement by accredited European embassies in Zimbabwe, and including Canada and the United States of America, yesterday urged the government to thoroughly investigate and hold accountable any perpetrators of the violence and alleged abductions.

“The Heads of Mission condemn the violence, attacks and acts of intimidation targeted at opposition leaders and supporters. These human rights violations have no place in a democratic society and contravene the fundamental tenets of international human rights standards.

“The Heads of Mission urge the government to respect the rights of the Zimbabwean people as enshrined in the Constitution.

“All allegations of incitement to violence or violent acts, as well as vandalism and destruction of property should be investigated in accordance with the rule of law and perpetrators held legally responsible,” the embassies said in their strong statement.

On July 30, millions of Zimbabweans cast their vote in historic elections to choose both a new Parliament and president, following the fall from power of former leader Robert Mugabe who resigned from office last November.

The elections were the first since 1980 to be held in the country without Mugabe’s participation, whose 37-year, iron-fisted rule was dramatically ended by a military operation which triggered events that ended with his resignation. The elections also marked the first time that the main opposition MDC was not represented by its founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who lost his brave battle with cancer of the colon on Valentine’s Day this year.

Zanu PF retained its two thirds parliamentary majority in Monday’s elections, with Mnangagwa winning a tightly-contested race by 50,8 percent.

But the peaceful campaigns and a camaraderie spirit that had characterised the run-up to the elections were sullied last Wednesday by deadly clashes between opposition supporters and security agents.

Seven people subsequently died when the army, which had apparently been called in to assist in managing the situation, used live ammunition to break the ugly protests.
Mnangagwa has since moved to calm the waters by reaching out to Chamisa to join hands with him to move the country forward.

“We cannot allow the violent actions of the few to detract from the democratic expression of the many. To … Chamisa, I want to say you have a crucial role to play in Zimbabwe’s present and in its future. Let us both call for peace and unity in our land, call for both louder than ever. That is the role of leaders. That is our joint responsibility even though discharged and fulfilled differently,” he said last Friday.

— DailyNews


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