Fear of anarchy grips Zimbabwe

November 14, 2011 at 12:57 pm Leave a comment

By JASON MOYO 

Zimbabwe’s unity government faces a major crisis as violent attacks on
President Robert Mugabe’s opponents escalate, aggravated by fears that
Mugabe himself may no longer be in control of his own supporters.

Keen to stave off regional pressure, Mugabe called a joint meeting of
leaders of his party and those of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
on Friday, but the MDC doubted this could quell tension.

Violent attacks by Zanu-PF militants have escalated despite Mugabe’s
repeated pleas for an end to violence. MDC leader and Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai said that this showed Mugabe might have lost control — “state
security agents have instituted a coup over the civilian authority”, he
said.

In a new report to President Jacob Zuma the MDC said the unity government
was now “dysfunctional” — Zanu-PF ministers were refusing to attend
meetings chaired by Tsvangirai, MDC rallies were being banned and Zanu-PF
militants were barring Tsvangirai from rural areas controlled by Mugabe’s
party.

According to the report, about 600 MDC members had been arrested since
January for various offences and Zanu-PF had set up “parallel government”
structures, paralysing the unity government and allowing Zanu-PF a platform
to plan violence and looting. “This is manifested in the generation and
expenditure of state resources outside government treasury rules and
regulations. Of note was the continued sale of state resources such as
diamonds, without the knowledge of the treasury,” the MDC said.

The attacks have also highlighted the failure of efforts to transform the
country’s security services — a key benchmark of the country’s reform
process.

Mugabe wants elections to be held next year, but the MDC said violence in
Harare’s townships during the past two weeks showed that Zimbabwe still had
much ground to cover before a new, free poll was possible.

Mugabe hoped that the appearance of rival leaders together in public,
denouncing violence, would ease tension among grassroots supporters. But
scores of people were injured last weekend when Zanu-PF youths attacked MDC
supporters gathering for a rally that was to be addressed by Tsvangirai in
Chitungwiza, 30km from Harare. Tsvangirai was forced to cancel the rally
because of the violence.

Free elections
After meeting Mugabe about it on Monday, Tsvangirai said free elections
would be impossible in the current conditions.

“If the current situation prevails, then the election will be a sham,”
Tsvangirai told reporters. “We have to create conditions for free and fair
elections that are universally accepted.

“So I am hoping that, by the time we call the election, the conditions will
be ideal for us to run a free and credible and legitimate election.”

A referendum on a new constitution, which would lead to new elections, is
expected by March next year.

Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo denied his party was behind the attacks
and said the MDC was provoking violence to get the attention of President
Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team, which arrived in the country this week on a
scheduled visit.

“This is a strategy by the MDC to create a violent atmosphere so that they
can say we can’t have elections because the environment is not good,” Gumbo
said.

Lindiwe Zulu, a member of Zuma’s team, described the violence as
“unacceptable” and said her team would discuss the violence.

Police reluctance to act at the weekend was only the latest frustration for
the MDC with the security services.

On Sunday, the party said, its supporters were under attack for more than an
hour before the police intervened — and, according to some activists, the
police became involved only when MDC youths organised and launched
retaliatory attacks on the Zanu-PF activists.

The MDC was preparing for the rally at a stadium in Chitungwiza when Zanu-PF
militia, using iron rods and clubs, attacked. MDC youths retaliated with
catapults and clubs, resulting in street brawls that spread through the
town. Police later used tear gas to end the fighting. The MDC said more than
60 of its supporters had been injured.

Tsvangirai had “complained bitterly” about the police’s failure to act but
Mugabe said he had been told by the commissioner that the police had failed
to intervene because “the MDC made it clear to the police that they were not
welcome at their meetings”, Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba said.

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