THE United States government yesterday said it was closely monitoring President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s abuse of State machinery to annihilate the main opposition MDC Alliance through illegal recall of its MPs, arbitrary arrests, asset seizure as well as denying it space to campaign freely.
In a statement, the US State Department said the developments in Zimbabwe were worrisome as they confirmed the Zanu PF regime’s determination to close the democratic space and create a pliant opposition which poses no threat ahead of the 2023 general elections.
“The United States is following events in Zimbabwe closely, including the troubling moves on March 17 to strip MDC Alliance vice-president Tendai Biti and other MDC Alliance members of their elected seats in Parliament,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.
“Since March 2020, parliamentary manoeuvres supported by the Zimbabwean government have led to the ouster of 39 MDC Alliance MPs and 81 local elected officials. These actions subvert the will of voters, further undermine democracy, and deny millions of Zimbabwean citizens their chosen representation.”
The US also accused Harare of violating the Constitution and barring the Nelson Chamisa-led opposition party activities under the guise of enforcing COVID-19 safety protocols, while Zanu PF events went ahead uninterrupted.
“We continue to monitor efforts by the government to dismantle the MDC Alliance through the arrests and detention of its leaders and diversion of its assets. We also note the government’s selective enforcement of COVID-19 regulations to indefinitely postpone by-elections and prohibit MDC Alliance gatherings, while permitting internal elections and gatherings for the ruling Zanu PF party and its allies to go forward,” Price said.
He also accused Zanu PF of using the Judiciary and law enforcement agents to silence dissent.
Several MDC Alliance activists, including the party’s deputy chairperson Job Sikhala and spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere, have been subjected to arbitrary arrests, while the $7 million government grant it was entitled to was diverted to the MDC-T, a rival faction led by Douglas Mwonzora.
Chamisa also lost his party headquarters to the MDC-T, which seized the building with the assistance of soldiers.
But Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo yesterday denied the charge of plotting the collapse of MDC Alliance.
“We have nothing to do with the recalls. It is the opposition party (MDC-Alliance)’s business. Zanu PF is not involved in any of the recalls. It is the court which ruled for the recalls, and so where does Zanu PF get in? Opposition parties are expelling each other and Zanu PF is not an opposition party, therefore, those squabbles do not concern us,” he said.
On the arrests of opposition members, Moyo said the law was taking its course on offending opposition members, adding that law enforcement agents do not take orders from Zanu PF when executing their duties.
“If they are violating regulations, they should be arrested. Zanu PF members cannot be arrested if they are following the laid-out COVID- 19 regulations. Zanu PF is not a law enforcement body which oversees arrests and prosecution of people. It’s a political party and, therefore, those who are aggrieved about their arrest should know where to table their concerns,” he said
The MDC Alliance said despite Moyo’s denials, events on the ground confirmed that Zanu PF was determined to do everything in its capacity to decimate Chamisa’s party to pave way for pliable opposition outfits.
“As early as last year, Mr Mnangagwa spoke of how they would flush out all opponents,” Mahere said.
“As a result, these illegal recalls and the continued persecution of the opposition come as no surprise. We see clear connivance with Zanu PF surrogates to usurp the will of the people.
“Zec [Zimbabwe Electoral Commission] has a constitutional obligation to hold elections and we have continuously stated that these should be held without delay. Zimbabweans must not be shaken. We know worse is coming. The solution is for the citizens to converge and fight for change.”
Zanu PF director for information, Tafadzwa Mugwadi, is also on record saying they were pushing for a one-party State.
The ruling party political commissar Victor Matemadanda recently bragged that they would not rest until the MDC Alliance has been crushed to smithereens.
The US department urged the government to respect citizens’ freedoms of expression and association as enshrined in the Constitution and adhere to its international commitments.
The latest standoff is likely to further strain relations between Harare and Washington at a time Mnangagwa is lobbying for acceptance into the global family of nations.
Recently, the Joe Biden administration added four Zimbabwe security officials to its sanctions list, accusing them of gross violation of human rights.
The US government also accused Mnangagwa of failing to honour the reform pledges he made on assuming power in November 2017 after a military coup that ousted late president Robert Mugabe.