The deputy minister of defence Victor Matemadanda threatened on Saturday that soldiers would be unleashed to crush opposition protests, warning: “They are trained to kill.”
The chilling threat was made in the presence of President Emmerson Mnangagwa during a meeting between war veterans and war collaborators from the 1970s bush war for independence.
MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, who accuses Mnangagwa of being illegitimate claiming elections in July last year were rigged, has called for a week of prayer this week which would be followed by “decisive action”.
The MDC is believed to be mobilising for massive street protests to bring down Mnangagwa’s government.
But Matemadanda raised the stakes on Saturday, warning that the government was ready to deploy soldiers again. Over two dozen people were killed in August last year and in January this year after Mnangagwa deployed soldiers to quell protests. No-one has been charged over the killings, despite demands by the international community.
“The police is trained to use minimum force, but I don’t know the limit of minimum force. But if the police is overpowered, panodaidzwa vana mukoma (we will summon the boys),” said Matemadanda, who’s also Zanu PF’s political commissar.
“Our constitution that we wrote together allows us to send soldiers and they don’t use minimum force, they don’t know it. They’re trained to kill. Forewarned is forearmed, stay at home lest you be caught in the crossfire.
Defence Minister Oppah Muchinguri, also speaking at the event, claimed the opposition was now using social media as a theatre for its resistance but vowed that Zanu PF would not “donate power”.
“Social media has become the new enemy we are facing as a party and country,” Muchinguri said. “Our children are being used to circulate false information to destabilise the country. We should watch out for people who want to infiltrate us.
“We must be on the lookout for the enemy, that’s what we went to war for. We did not go to war so that we donate power, power is not donated but should be defended.”
In a statement on Sunday, Home Affairs Minister Cain Mathema said the police had been put on high alert.
“My ministry has directed the Commissioner-General of Police to ensure that officers are on high alert and ready to deal with any acts of violence or destruction of property,” Mathema said.
“We appeal to all peace loving Zimbabweans to ignore these calls for demonstrations which are detrimental to the social economy development thrust of the government.”
The MDC’s call for protests comes as Zimbabwe’s economic crisis has lurched to depths not seen in over a decade. Zimbabweans are grappling with power cuts lasting 18 hours daily and shortages of fuel, bread and medicines while salaries remain depressed as inflation hit 176 percent last month.