PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s jittery administration has launched a vicious crackdown on the opposition to kill two birds with one stone — stopping any potential post-election revolt while aiming to get a two-thirds majority in Parliament via the backdoor — government officials say.
A two-thirds majority is crucial for Mnangagwa, who desires to change the constitution to tighten his grip on power amid talk of possibly extending his tenure beyond 10 years.
In the last parliamentary term Mnangagwa, through the Zimbabwe Constitution Amendment (No.2) Act changed the suprreme charter to remove the running mate close so that he has a pliant deputy, while giving himself greater control over cabinet, the Prosecutor-General and Public Protector.
The Act permitted the President to promote judges of the High Court and the Supreme Court to a higher court on the recommendation of the JSC, without the need for public interviews, thereby opening the door to promotions on the basis of political suitability and cronyism.
It allowed judges of the ConCourt and the Supreme Court to continue to serve beyond the current retirement age of 70, if the President, after consulting the JSC, consented to their doing so.
This effectively stripped judges of their security of tenure, thus their independence, since they will hold office from year to year subject to the President’s whim.
The crackdown is occurring at a time the police and other security agents are enforcing an unofficial curfew in Harare and Chitungwiza, which has seen security forces either forcing bars and restaurants to close at night or security forces attacking innocent citizens.
Mnangagwa has claimed a disputed victory in the 23 and 24 August elections 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 sham elections. Police this week arrested Phelandaba-Tshabalala legislator Gift Siziba and Bulawayo Central MP Surrender Kapoikilu on public order charges. Police also arrested Sunningdale CCC legislator Maureen Kademaunga and charged her with attempted murder, but the case was dismissed in court.
Harare deputy mayor Kudzai Kadzombe was also arrested on a charge of assaulting a Zanu PF member on election day. Siziba, a Highlanders Football Club fan, was initially arrested for allegedly inciting the public violence which erupted on Sunday in a suspended explosive league match between topflight giants Highlanders and Dynamos at Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo last Sunday.
He was arrested for merely posting a picture in a Highlanders jersey, with the caption; “We fear fokol!” on match day.
However, it turned out that Siziba was being falsely accused of inciting the public disturbances on the basis of wrong information, as the photo in question was taken at the National Sports Stadium in Harare on 20 May 2023 when Highlanders played Cranborne Bullets.
Police however re-arrested Siziba and pre ferred new charges against him. Law enforcement agents allege he unlawfully defaced election campaign posters belonging to Soneni Moyo, a CCC double candidate who was accused of being fielded by Forever Associates Zimbabwe, a shadowy intelligence-affiliated outfit to divide opposition votes.
Zanu PF failed to get the two-thirds majority it sought in Parliament, winning 136 of the 209 National Assembly seats contested, while CCC got 73 seats.
A by-election will be held in Gutu West following the death of independent candidate Christopher Mutonhori Rwodzi in the run up to the election. The threshold for obtaining a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly is 186, but Zanu PF managed to get 176 legislators in total.
The National Assembly has a total of 280 members, that is 210 elected members, 60 women chosen under the proportional representation (PR) system and 10 youth quota seats. Zanu PF got 136 elected seats, 33 PR seats and seven youth quota seats, totalling 176.
The CCC, on the other hand, managed 103 seats in total; 73 elected seats, 27 women PR seats and three under the youth quota. Parliamentarians are chosen in terms of section 124 of Zimbabwe’s constitution.
The crackdown is occurring at a time former legislator and Zimbabwe’s foremost political prisoner Job Sikhala has been languishing in jail without trial since June 2022. Government officials say the crackdown is also happening because the Mnangagwa administration fears a post-election popular revolt over disputed results and the economic deterioration.
Last Saturday, police raided a popular nightclub in Harare, Eclipse Bar & Grill, on Nelson Mandela Avenue/Third Street just before midnight and other nightclubs as part of the government post-election crackdown to contain simmering social unrest and pre-empt a feared opposition-led revolt.
The country’s political and security environ ment 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. 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. It could 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 says 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. 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. Last 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 a fortnight ago.
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 and 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 assaulted 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 the corner of 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.