JITTERY authorities have once again warned the opposition and civil society groups planning to hold unsanctioned mass demonstrations on July 31 that they will be treated like terrorists and likely end up being jailed.
This comes as the organisers of the protests have vowed to go ahead with their mass action – with or without the green light from authorities – until the government acts on rampant public sector corruption and also holds much-needed national dialogue to rescue Zimbabwe from its myriad crises.
It also comes as a respected British think-tank has warned President Emmerson Mnangagwa that his reign is under growing threat due to the country’s worsening economic crisis.
Speaking to the DailyNews yesterday ahead of the planned demos, an uncompromising Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi warned that authorities would use security forces and the courts to deal with the protesters.
“If you look at the Public Health Act that was used by the president to pronounce a state of public emergency … once that is declared it means certain fundamental rights will be limited in that regard.
“It’s a justifiable limitation of a right. Now you find certain individuals … pursuing their agenda of demonstrating in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
“If you try to analyse that thinking, you then realise that the agenda is to make sure that our people die … and hence it is something that cannot be tolerated,” Ziyambi told the Daily News.
“Any lawful government worth its salt will not condone such behaviour. It’s a complete no, no … and nobody will be allowed to go into the streets to infect others.
“We believe that it’s uncalled for and that there is a hidden hand to ensure that Zimbabweans die and we will make sure all the security agents and even the courts deal with it.
“We will ensure that courts are there to deal with violators of Covid-19 regulations, that they are prosecuted and sent to jail.
“That’s our response as government. We are very ready,” Ziyambi further told the DailyNews.
“Going forward you will hear the president making pronouncements but our security forces … are on high alert to ensure that any terrorist activity will be dealt with accordingly.
“Anyone who goes into the streets against that advice is equivalent to a terrorist … so that we can deal with them accordingly.
“All information has been put in the public domain to say that this pandemic is serious … Anyone who then disregards those regulations and exposes people to danger in that manner I don’t see any reason why we cannot find a law that we can use in terms of terrorism activity to deal with those individuals,” Ziyambi added.
This comes as Zimbabwe is in the vice grip of a ginormous economic crisis which has stirred anger and restlessness among long-suffering Zimbabweans.
Amid the decaying economy, a British think-tank has warned that Mnangagwa’s continued hold on power faces significant challenges unless his government acts to end the country’s worsening political and economic crises, the Daily News on Sunday reported at the weekend.
In addition, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) also said the government would use security forces to repel the restive populace in the event of riots.
This also comes as Zimbabwe is bracing for the planned anti-government mass protests slated for July 31, which have further stoked political temperatures in the country – resulting in raids by suspected State operatives on the homes of some government critics.
“The president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, faces growing threats to his authority stemming from ongoing economic and political crises, which are being exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Several clashes have occurred between workers and the security services as many people struggle to earn a living.
“Further unrest is likely as restrictions remain in place for most workers and the economic crisis continues.
“Mr Mnangagwa came to office promising sweeping political and economic changes, raising public and international expectations,” the EIU said in its latest report on Zimbabwe.
It also said reform efforts by the government, since the dramatic fall from power of the late former president Robert Mugabe on November 2017 – via a widely-supported military coup – had been slow and piece-meal.
“Public sector strikes over poor working conditions and low real wages have been increasingly common in recent months.
“As the economy contracts further in 2020 and 2021, with extremely weak fundamentals exacerbated by the domestic and international economic effects of the pandemic, further strikes and protests are likely.
“The government is likely to continue to crack down heavily on protesters to maintain its grip on power,” the EIU further warned.
“The military plays a central role in domestic politics. If senior military figures perceive the president to be incapable of preventing economic collapse, they could move against him,” it added.