THE Zimbabwean government is running a security operation, mainly in Harare, around the clock to prevent gatherings as it is fears an uprising and post-election violence over disputed poll results, intelligence sources have told The NewsHawks.
This comes amid growing political tensions and an acrimonious dispute over results of the recently held elections, particularly the presidential race in which President-Elect Emmerson Mnangagwa scraped through by a wafer-thin 2.6%, marginally better than 2018, ahead of his close challenger Nelson Chamisa, the main opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) leader.
Mnangagwa got 52.6%, while Chamisa got 44%. Tensions between Zimbabwe and its regional neighbours over the elections charade are also fueling the situation.
Realising that the 23-24 August general elections had degenerated into chaos and a farce, government started deploying secret units of security forces, mainly law and order police, military intelligence and civilian intelligence, to gauge the mood on the ground and manoeuvre to prevent a potential revolt, the 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.
One security unit in plain clothes has been going around in Harare beating up people in bars and restaurants.
The move is an indiscriminate pre-emptive strike against the opposition. Zimbabwe’s state security agency, Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) deputy director-general Gatsha Mazithulela was caught up in that operation.
Mazithulela was badly beaten up on Thursday night 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.
Mazithulela, an academic who is one of the best scientists in the country and former pro-vice-chancellor at the National University of Science & Technology in Bulawayo, was beaten up by state security agents while he was having drinks in the company of a friend who is a senior local journalist at a state-controlled newspaper.
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.
“The incident happened on Thursday night at Zim Cafe, the one run by Isaac; not Isaac Moyo his CIO boss, but Isaac the socialite and businessman,” a source told The NewsHawks.
“A group of state agents stormed the bar and attacked people randomly. Mazithulela was unfortunately caught up in the situation and he was attacked in a bad way. He was injured in the process and taken to hospital.”
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.
Police officers are conducting motorised and foot patrols in Central Business Districts, residential, industrial and other areas people during protests over fuel price increases.
State-sponsored human rights abuses have not yet stopped in the post-Mugabe era. The late former president Robert Mugabe was ousted in a November 2017 coup by Mnangagwa and his cabal. In the past few days, police units have been getting increasingly aggressive amid paranoia and panic – a siege mentality from authorities.
Law and order police agents on Saturday tried to disrupt an opposition CCC press conference addressed by party spokesman Promise Mkhwananzi 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 Mkhwananzi, a former student activist and Tajamuka/Sesijilike leader, to cause trouble in the streets.
Mkhwananxi has been arrested many times for political activism. Police say they are now looking over a 2020 warrant of arrest.
Law and order police officers who stormed the CCC press briefing and grabbed a speech from Mkhwananzi – 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.
Prior to that, the state agents had at tacked a bar in Belgravia on Downie Road widely known to its patrons as KwaAngie. The place is near Belgravia Sports Club close to the Malaysian Embassy. Just like at Zim Cafe, the agents had arrived in plain clothes and violently forced their way into the bar.
They then randomly roughed up or beat up everyone, including some journalists who were drinking there.
A reporter from Botswana who was in the country to cover elections was beaten up. He lost contact with his colleagues and had to be rescued by Good Samaritans who located his colleagues for him.
The attack on 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.
Those who drink with say he is also sometimes aggressive, although on Thursday he was targeted from nowhere when he was minding his own business with a friend.
Given the high political stakes, unstable environment and the volatile situation, the security operation underway would actually trigger what it seeks to prevent: A reaction.