MDC Alliance president Nelson Chamisa says the government is trying to provoke opposition and civic society leaders into engaging in violence by pushing them into a tight corner through a crackdown by law enforcement agents.
Several activists, including MDC Alliance vice-chairperson Job Sikhala, were forced into hiding after police released a list of people they said were wanted in connection with the July 31 protests.
Chamisa, who returned to work on Friday following the death of his mother last month, told Sabc News on Friday night that scores of Members of Parliament from his party and some top leaders had been forced to go underground after harassment by state security agents.
“Yes, there is the temptation to be violent because we are being invited to be violent, because we are being treated violently,” Chamisa said.
“But we have said ours is a democratic movement, we should never be tempted to go on the low road of violence.
“Ours is a high road of peace, democracy and make sure we democratically achieve democracy in Zimbabwe.”
Chamisa said those subjected to harassment by the state included lawyers, journalists, activists and even professionals who all “cannot breathe”.
“What we have seen for the past few weeks by way of abductions, detentions, illegal and unlawful arrests, the increase in abuses of citizens, abuse of our journalists, abuse of our lawyers and generally all the citizens in the country, it is an escalation of the problems that have been there, which are essentially a problem of governance, a problem of legitimacy, around the disputed elections in 2018,” he said.
“The legitimacy crisis is what is showing all these.
“This is basically an indication of a fragile state, of a banana republic where citizens have been relegated.
“So, we are seeing that the democratic space has been eroded; citizens are not being allowed to freely express themselves in terms of the constitution of our country.”
Chamisa last week visited incarcerated journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume, who were arrested last month ahead of the July 31 protests.
The duo was denied bail by a Harare magistrate and on Friday High Court judge Justice Tawanda Chitapi threw out their appeals.
“What you have seen is the attack against journalists, symbolised by Hopewell, an attack on lawyers, an attack against churches and an attack of the leadership of the opposition particularly the MDC Alliance Members of Parliament being incarcerated,” Chamisa said.
“As we speak right now, we have MPs, members of the leadership who are on the run, who are on the wanted list by the police not for any crime, but just for being targeted for belonging to the MDC.
“Nobody can breathe in Zimbabwe including journalists, professionals and the church.
“So, when I met Hopewell and Ngarivhume in prison, they indicated they were determined and they want the solidarity of all of us to make sure we express ourselves.
“Going forward, we have to be strong, to be committed and provide leadership in an appropriate manner, so we are ready to provide that leadership so that we are able to express ourselves peacefully.”
The government denies accusations that it is targeting government critics for persecution.
— The Standard