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Govt crackdown to pre-empt feared mass revolt intensifies



ZIMBABWEAN police last night raided a popular nightclub in Harare, Eclipse Bar & Grill, on Nelson Mandela Avenue/Third Street just before midnight as the government intensifies its post-election crackdown to contain simmering social unrest and pre-empt a feared opposition-led revolt.


The country’s political and security environment is increasingly becoming repressive and volatile, with basic liberties under threat and more draconian legislation being introduced.

The government — evidently paranoid and feeling under siege — is currently running a draconian security operation, mainly in the capital, an opposition stronghold, around the clock to prevent gatherings of people amid fears of an uprising and post-election violence over the disputed recent elections.

Eyewitnesses told The NewsHawks that police arrived in trucks and cars before storming the nightclub as part of a security operation which they have publicly confirmed while openly admitting its political agenda.

“We were drinking and enjoying ourselves at Eclipse nightclub just before midnight when police raided the bar, ordering everyone to leave immediately. It was virtually a midnight raid which is clearly political because the club is always open until of late when this operation got underway,” one eyewitness said.

“There was chaos inside and outside the club during the police raid. They aggressively ordered people to go home without telling us why. It was raw intimidation and needless use of brute force.”

Another Eclipse patron said: “I’m not a political animal and didn’t even vote for anyone in the recent elections, but we are now living in a country in which people’s activities, including social events and drinking, are strictly controlled by the government with the help of a partisan police force.”

The crowd of revellers outside Eclipse complained that their civil liberties were being violated by an authoritarian police force which has taken politics into nightclubs and other social gatherings.

During last night’s operation, police went around Harare central business district searching for open bars, clubs and restaurants.

At Nando’s on Samora Machel Avenue police details shouted that people should leave and go home. They targeted customers ordering food at the 24-hour fast-food outlet.

“They came to Nandos’ in trucks and cars, telling people to leave and go home,” one Nando’s client said.

“We didn’t immediately vacate the place because we had ordered food. This sort of behaviour is just repressive and oppressive.”

Zimbabweans say their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly are being increasingly threatened before, during and after the elections.

After the “Patriotic Act” was signed into law in July, the situation is getting worse. Things will further deteriorate as the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill, which will further undermine the right to freedom of association if adopted, will soon be signed into law.

A source in the Office of the President and Cabinet say the Bill will soon be signed into law. “It will be signed into law soon,” the source said.

The authorities have weaponised the law to persecute main opposition CCC members and supporters by subjecting them to arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions and unfair trials. Members of civil society groups are also subjected to arbitrary arrests.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has claimed a disputed victory against his bitter rival, opposition CCC leader Nelson Chamisa, who has rejected the result as a “gigantic fraud” and a brazen subversion of the people’s will, compounding the incumbent’s legitimacy problem.

The Southern African Development Community’s troika of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation has also rejected the outcome of Zimbabwe’s recent flawed elections, while other observers gave a sceptical endorsement.

Mnangagwa scraped through by a wafer-thin 2.6%, marginally better than 2018, ahead of his close challenger Chamisa. The President got 52.6%, while Chamisa got 44%.

Tensions between Zimbabwe and its regional neighbours, especially Zambia, as well as some international community members over the elections are also fueling the current situation. There is a regional uproar over Zimbabwe’s elections.

As the government escalates its crackdown, police are currently hunting down CCC national spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi over a 2020 court issue.

The case was revived soon after Mkwananzi, previously arrested for political activism activities as the leader of pressure group Tajamuka/Sesijikile, was appointed CCC spokesperson.

Earlier this week, police arrested and detained two Harare human rights lawyers Doug Coltart and Tapiwa Muchineripi representing opposition CCC members Womberaiishe Nhende and Sonele Mukhuhlani who were abducted and tortured by state security agents on Saturday last week.

The lawyers were arrested on spurious charges of allegedly obstructing the course justice after they informed the police that the victims — their clients — were not fit to record statements due to their mental and physical condition, a position backed by doctors and nurses in attendance.

At least 41 independent election monitors were arrested during the recent polls and their equipment seized by police.

Realising that the 23-24 August general elections had degenerated into chaos and a farce, the government began deploying secret units of security forces, mainly law-and-order police, military intelligence and civilian intelligence, to assess the mood on the ground and manoeuvre to prevent a potential revolt, sources said.

This involved a security threat analysis of the situation on the ground by intelligence services which concluded that the post-election environment is volatile, especially because Chamisa and his supporters believe the elections were stolen.

Police confirmed the ongoing security operation in two public statements.

One law-and-order police unit in plain clothes has been going around in Harare beating up people in bars and restaurants.

Zimbabwe’s state security agency, Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) deputy director-general Gatsha Mazithulela was recently caught up in that operation.

Mazithulela was badly beaten up in the early hours of 25 August by a law enforcement unit operating in suburban areas and town, violently closing bars and restaurants while forcing people to go home.

Sources said Mazithulela was attacked at Zim Cafe Restaurant, which has two bars inside, at corner Kwame Nkrumah Avenue and Fifth Street in Harare; his favourite drinking place in the capital.

After storming the bar, a 15-member state security squad, suspected to be military intelligence soldiers, viciously attacked Mazithulela, an academic who is one of the best scientists in the country and former pro-vice-chancellor at the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo, leaving him for dead.

Eyewitnesses said they feared Mazithulela would die after he was brutally attacked before he was rushed to hospital by the bar owner who had hid under tables while the fierce raid took place.

Sources said Mazithulela had tried to leverage his position and fight them using a chair after an explosive argument, but was overpowered by the ruthless group that had earlier the same night raided Angie’s Bar in Belgravia.

His colleagues, including three journalists, were also brutally assaulted.

Mazithulela has held top private sector positions abroad at the level of chief executive, especially in the chemicals, petrochemicals and energy sector, and also worked in government on technocratic capacities.

Police confirmed a day after polling stations closed — on 25 August — that they are conducting patrols following an assessment of the political and security situation in the country, especially in Harare.

Law enforcement officers are conducting motorised and foot patrols in central business districts, residential, industrial and other areas.

Of late, police units have been getting increasingly aggressive amid paranoia and panic — a siege mentality from the authorities.

Law-and-order police agents on 26 August tried to disrupt an opposition CCC Press conference addressed by Mkwananzi at Sapes Trust in Belgravia, Harare, leading to clashes with political activists and reporters.

Sources say state security agencies believe Chamisa replaced Fadzayi Mahere with Mkwananzi, a former student activist leader, to cause trouble in the streets.

Mkwananzi has been arrested many times for political activism. Police say they are now hunting him down over a 2020 warrant of arrest.

Law-and-order police officers who stormed the recent CCC Press briefing and grabbed a speech from Mkwananzi — leaving him literally and metaphorically speechless — included Clifford Mugabiri, Jethro Tapererwa, Solomon Matambura and Panganai Gwati who led the aggression before they were repelled by the party officials and journalists.

The attack on CIO boss Mazithulela has highlighted the problem of indiscriminate violence against innocent citizens.

Mazithulela seems to have been unlucky of late.

Last year, a man was shot dead during a break-in at his Harare home on Crichton Road in the Groombridge area of Mount Pleasant.

Three years ago, a CIO agent drunkenly pointed a gun at Mazithulela as he was leaving his farm in Norwood in Umguza, Matabeleland North province.

Given the high political stakes, unstable environment and the volatile situation, the security operation underway is fueling agitation and anxiety.

Repression is worsening

Coltart and Muchineripi were arrested after they were called out to help two CCC members who were abducted on Saturday night last week, badly tortured and hospitalised.

One of them gave an interview from his hospital bed on Monday morning, revealing gruesome brutality and injuries.

The police had arrived at their hospital to “interview” them in the evening despite their horrific condition. They then called Coltart who told them his clients were in a bad state to be interviewed.

Instead of finding a solution to the situation, police insensitivity got aggressive and arrested the two lawyers for allegedly “obstructing justice”.

In the run-up to the elections, opposition rallies were disrupted and banned, some prominent members, including then MP Job Sikhala, jailed and activist Tinashe Chitsunge killed as repression and violence continue to grip the troubled nation.

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