PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s weekend attack on the MDC Alliance, calling it a terrorist organisation has attracted backlash from the opposition and political analysts who say that it was a ploy by the government to crackdown on dissenting voices ahead of the 2023 elections.
Analysts said Mnangagwa’s utterances showed that he was only interested in tightening his grip on power.
Speaking at the launch of an empowerment programme for war veterans in Harare on Saturday, Mnangagwa described the MDC Alliance as a terrorist organisation that was “pro-violence” and “anti-people”.
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said Mnangagwa’s remarks confirmed his criminalisation of opposition politics by labelling it “terrorists”, which he said was akin to the terms used to label the people of Matabeleland and Midlands provinces ahead of the 1980s Gukurahundi atrocities which left more than 20 000 civilians killed.
“We remember the same words being used on PF Zapu and (the late) Joshua Nkomo, and these words carry a foreboding message of what ED (Mnangagwa) has in store for the MDC Alliance ahead of the 2023 elections, which can only be more violence and repression,” Mukundu said.
“Essentially, ED is telling us that nothing has changed from the Gukurahundi era to the present day and that Zimbabwe is in perilous times where a legitimate opposition is criminalised and labelled a ‘terrorist’ organisation.”
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition director Blessing Vava said Mnangagwa’s comments were a “direct threat to the pro-democratic movement, adding that they raised fears of a clampdown on the pro-democracy movement”.
“On what basis and since when has the MDC Alliance became a terrorist organisation? If whistling, tweeting and holding placards are described as terrorism then we can say Prophet Mohammed was a Christian. It’s shocking that in Zimbabwe being an opposition party amounts to being a terrorist organisation.
“It is a direct threat to the pro-democratic movement and raises fears of a clampdown,” he added.
Another political analyst Alexander Rusero said: “It puts to finality all forms of pretence or any form of exaggerated optimism that on a certain day Zanu PF and the MDC Alliance under Chamisa will sit on the table and negotiate and try to wobble Zimbabwe out of the crisis.”
He said the fact that the statements were coming from the President two years prior to an election was clear testimony that there was no hope for peaceful polls.
“I think you know how terrorists are dealt with and how terrorism is the highest crime at global level. When you have a whole government characterising a political party as a terrorist organisation, it is not just simple ordinary political banter you hear every day. It is actually a serious issue. This will lay the ground for abuses and persecution of opposition members because of that kind of mischaracterisation.
“This also signals Zanu PF’s frustration with the MDC Alliance and also signals that Zanu PF has tried all and sundry to armtwist the MDC Alliance to its political charade of Polad (Political Actors Dialogue), unity and reform and so the emperor is frustrated now.
“What Zanu PF is doing is to legitimise the position of Chamisa’s party as the bona fide party and genuine alternative because you do not characterise your rival as a terrorist, especially when the gravity of violence that has been meted on them more than them perpetrating such.”
In a statement, MDC Alliance youth assembly spokesperson Stephen Chuma, said by calling them a terrorist organisation, Mnangagwa was seeking to “chlorinate arbitrary arrests, pre-trial detentions, abductions, rap_e, torture, murder and all sorts of evils his regime is committing against the people of Zimbabwe, particularly those opposed to his dictatorship”.
“When he says the opposition is ‘anti-people’ and ‘anti-democratic’, it is a classic case of a hyena accusing goats of devouring her cubs. The intention is to wipe out all the goats on the pretext of protecting her cubs.
“Mnangagwa is the same man who lied to the whole nation that he is ‘as soft as wool’, and the next thing he unleashes the military in broad daylight to butcher unarmed civilians on August 1, 2018,” he said.
Chuma said the MDC Alliance possessed neither guns nor knobkerries and, therefore, could not be labelled terrorists.
Zanu PF acting deputy youth league secretary Tendai Chirau took to social media, saying there was no need to treat the MDC Alliance with kid gloves.
“A portrait of a terrorist organisation led by politician-cum-pseudo pastor; this organisation should not be treated with kid’s gloves. It is against everything that is Zimbabwean,” Chirau tweeted.
Mnangagwa has been accused of descending heavily on dissenting voices, including workers, since he came into office in 2017 after a military coup which removed the late former President Robert Mugabe from power.
The heavy-handedness included the shooting of civilians by the military in August 2018 and January 2019.