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Security forces primed to crush dissenters ahead of Sadc summit




ZIMBABWE’S security forces have been put on high alert to crush any potential dissent or demonstrations ahead of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) summit.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa is going all out to reverse the Sadc Election Observer Mission report which highlighted a high number of anomalies and condemned the 23-24 August 2023 elections.

Desperate to reverse the report, Mnangagwa has gone out on a public relations scheme to impress the Sadc heads of state.

Mnangagwa is refurbishing roads in Harare, building luxury villas and will host the visiting leaders at the new Parliament Building in Mount Hampden or at the newly renovated and renamed Meikles Hotel, now called the Hyatt Regency Harare/The Meikles.

Given that Sadc leaders openly rejected Zanu PF’s controversial election victory last year, Mnangagwa is doing this to ensure political legitimacy and survival, as well as camouflage the country’s economic and social problems through a facade.

He is however worried the opposition protests can potentially harm his plans. In the eyes of Sadc, Mnangagwa was not legitimately elected given the damning report which is now an official record.

The state is therefore using as an example Jameson Timba and 77 others who were arrested commemorating  Africa Youth Day at Timba’s private home and have been denied bail to would-be protesters.

Timba, his son Ndapuwa and others were arrested gestapo-style on 16 June at Timba’s home in Avondale and detained at Avondale Police station.

Some were detained at Harare Central Police Station.

Altogether, 78 people were arrested amid brutal attacks and injuries at Timba’s home on  Downie Avenue in Avondale.

The gathering was a private youth function over a braai to join South Africans in annual commemorations of 16 June — Youth Day — named after the historic 16 June 1976 Soweto Uprising.

The date 16 June is a national public holiday in South Africa, celebrated as Youth Day.

It has its origins in the 1976 uprisings which started in Soweto before spreading countrywide, sparked off by John Vorster’s apartheid government’s decision to use Afrikaans as a language of instruction in black schools.

Commemorations of the day and the youths’ heroics which captured the public imagination and world attention, while also changing the course of history in South Africa, has resonance in the region, including in Zimbabwe, and the Global South.

The epic event is a historic and landmark act of resistance to brutal colonial and apartheid dominance.

For joining and facilitating the commemorations and some discussions over a braai, Timba and 20 others, including his United States university-bound son, are now charged with promoting public violence, breaches of peace or bigotry under section 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

Timba’s son was released on bail last week after the prosecutors agreed that he was arrested when he came to the house to present gifts to his father and was not part of the gathering.

However, Timba and his son were not even part of the event. They had only offered a venue.

Yet police arrested and beat them up, among others, Gestapo-style.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights is dealing with the issue.

Lawyers were deployed to Avondale and Harare Central Police Station to attend to the detainees.

They recorded statements and facilitated medical attention to traumatised victims of police brutality.

Police initially denied the detainees medical attention.

Sadc leaders received the controversial election observer mission report on Zimbabwe at an extraordinary summit of heads of state and government in Luanda, Angola, on 4 November 2023 despite Harare’s attempts to ensure that polls were  off the agenda.

The summit appointed a sub-committee which included Angola, Namibia and Tanzania to handle the Zimbabwe situation, while delicate private talks were occurring within the regional grouping’s circles.

Sadc leaders had initially convened five days earlier for a virtual summit before deciding to meet in person in Luanda to discuss the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zimbabwe mainly.

The summit came against a backdrop of resistance by Mnangagwa and Foreign Affairs minister Fredrick Shava to have Zimbabwe on the agenda and to be discussed at the meeting.

Sadc chair Angolan President João Lourenço and Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema warded off Mnangagwa and Shava’s pressure to remove Zimbabwe from the agenda.

Prior to the summit, the Sadc council of ministers and the troika of the organ on politics, defence and security had met virtually on 26 and 27 October respectively in Lusaka to discuss the same issues — the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe.

Sadc ministers stood firm behind their election observer mission led by former Zambian vice-president Nevers Mumba who was appointed by Hichilema. He was under attack from Zanu PF and government officials.

They rejected the bile and insults directed at them by Zanu PF and government officials led by Zanu PF spokesperson Chris Mutsvangwa, who was War Veterans minister at the time, and Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba.

Highly placed sources have informed The NewsHawks that security forces are vigilant and ready to crush any possible opposition demonstrations at formative stages.

The revelations explain why armed riot police pounced on opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) youths on Sunday and subjected them to intense torture after they had gathered at the private home of senior party official Jameson Timba in Avondale to commemorate Day of the African Child.

Timba, a former minister of state and current chief administrator of the CCC, was also arrested.

He appeared alongside 77 others before Harare magistrate Ruth Moyo who repeatedly remanded them in custody during bail application hearings until their freedom was effectively denied on 27 June.

In order to manage opposition supporters who wanted to demonstrate at court during the delivery of the bail application ruling, Timba and the other 77 were not allowed to come to come to court.

The ruling was delivered virtually.

When the opposition activists appeared at the magistrates’ court in Harare, some of them had visible scars of torture while one of them had a broken limb.

An intelligence source said after the pronouncement by opposition politician Nelson Chamisa that the Southern African Development Community must still address the August 2023 election dispute that saw Mnangagwa controversially win by a wafer-thin margin to claim a second term, the security forces had been activated to be on high alert to quell possible protests by his supporters ahead of the Sadc summit.

At the Sadc summit, Mnangagwa is expected to assume the rotational position of chairperson of the regional bloc.

“The heavy-handedness with which police treated the youths after arresting them was both designed as a show of power and a message to any would-be protesters ahead of the Sadc summit. The security forces are acting on assumptions that Chamisa’s supporters want to take to the streets ahead of the Sadc summit and that gathering at Timba’s house was regarded as a planning meeting for demonstrations. That is why it was treated in that brutal way,” said the source.

“Otherwise the CCC at this stage, after its complete capture, is no longer regarded as a threat at all, especially now that we are no longer in election time.” Added the source:

“The real issue is that there are fears Chamisa supporters want to demonstrate to pressure Sadc leaders to address their legitimacy complaint against President Mnangagwa. The strategy is therefore to cut these plans at their formative stages and round up the ring leaders.”

The source said the charge laid against the opposition activists was also telling. When they appeared in court for initial remand, the activists were charged for participating in an illegal gathering with intent to promote public violence and disorderly conduct.

The Zanu PF government has since Independence in 1980 been accused of applying authoritarian political repression, arrests and detentions, abductions, torture, beatings and killings of opposition activists, when cornered.

History has shown that the Zanu PF regime  resorts to brutal crackdowns whenever its stranglehold on power is challenged.

CCC members have been arrested, abducted and some killed in recent months. Zanu PF has a long record of violence, brutality and murder. The international community has always condemned the crackdowns, with calls for the government to respect human rights, democratic principles, and the rule of law. The situation remains polarised amid fears of further repression and violence if the opposition tries to protest or express its simmering discontent in public.

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