THE Zanu PF youth league has threatened to block the demonstrations planned by the opposition MDC party to protest government’s poor handling of the economy which it claims has left the majority of people in the country poor.
The southern African country is in the throes of its worst economic crisis since 2009, with rolling power cuts of up to 18 hours daily threatening industry and mines, while shortages of cash, fuel, bread and medicines have become chronic.
The Nelson Chamisa-led MDC on Tuesday this week filed a notice with the police to demonstrate against rising unemployment, corruption and a deteriorating economy, but the response by Zany PF sets the stage for possible clashes between the country’s dominant political foes.
Zanu PF youth league boss 55 year old Pupurai Togarepi said by announcing the protest date, battle lines between his party and the MDC had been drawn in the sand.
“Any thuggery will be confronted with equal measure,” Togarepi warned.
“If they decide to be funny as they did in previous so called demonstrations, there won’t be anything called MDCA from that day. We are not going to sit back and watch them tear the Constitution of our country with impunity.”
At least 17 people were killed and 200 sustained gunshot wounds after security forces crushed protests over a 150% fuel price increase in January this year. Cumulatively, the cost of fuel has risen by over 500% this year alone following a 26% rise early this week, although the commodity remains scarce.
Zanu PF youths, soldiers and police officers were all implicated in the violence.
Togarepi added: “If they have set a date then the battle lines have been drawn. I hope they don’t cross the Rubicon line.”
Asked if he was not inciting violence by his choice of words, particularly when the Constitution provides for peaceful demonstrations, Togarepi accused the MDC of planning to subvert a constitutionally-elected government.
Charging that the opposition party had failed the test for peaceful protests in the past, he said: “They are threatening to remove a constitutionally-elected government. I am reacting to a threat from the MDC-A to remove a government through illegal means.”
“They abused the freedom to demonstrate, destroyed police stations and people’s properties etc. We cannot stand akimbo while terror mongers are threatening anarchy. While the Constitution gives the right to demonstrate, it also gives the right for self-defence.
“We will defend our Zimbabwe, our democracy and our people. We will respond decisively if we are provoked. To defend our democracy is a right too. The right to demonstrate is not an absolute right; unfortunately MDC Alliance has failed the test in past demonstrations.”
However, quizzed on how they intend to carry out their plans since they are not the law enforcers, Togarepi ominously retorted: “A touch is a move.”
The opposition has in the past accused Zanu PF activists of fomenting anarchy and inciting violence during their demonstrations. Some have accused Zanu PF of targeting and attacking known opposition activists during the protests.
In January, both police and soldiers were accused of gross human rights violations when they indiscriminately beat up citizens following the protest over the rising cost of living.