Tension as 2018 looms

Tension as 2018 looms

Source: Tension as 2018 looms – DailyNews Live

Mugove Tafirenyika      19 March 2017

HARARE – Security commanders have summoned opposition parties to a meeting
in Harare tomorrow, ahead of Wednesday’s planned mega demonstrations –
amid fears by panicking authorities that the spirit of resistance which
swept across the country last year is once again gathering steam ahead of
next year’s make-or-break national polls.

This comes as the under pressure Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), in a
bid to dissuade the opposition from toyi-toying on Wednesday, has also
scheduled its own meeting with all political parties on Tuesday – to
discuss the increasingly contentious matter of biometric voter
registration (BVR), which is the main reason for this week’s protests.

And as if to underscore the fact that this week will be a big one both
politically and economically, overwhelmed banks – which were besieged by
angry tobacco farmers on Friday after they failed to avail the $1 000 that
the farmers had been promised by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) – are
expected to remain under the cosh.

Douglas Mwonzora, the secretary general of the National Electoral Reform
Agenda (Nera), a group of 18 opposition parties agitating for electoral
reforms ahead of next year’s elections, confirmed to the Daily News On
Sunday yesterday that the country’s feared Joint Operations Command (JOC)
– a security think tank comprising military, police, prisons and Central
Intelligence Organisation (CIO) bosses – had summoned them to a meeting
tomorrow.

“Joc and Zec have both called for meetings on the 20th and 21st of this
month respectively, but that will not in any way have a bearing on the
Nera demonstration which will go ahead as planned because Zimbabweans want
to stop this daylight rigging of the 2018 elections that has started.

“We are aware that the authorities are panicking and would want to
intimidate us so that people don’t partake in the demonstration, but that
will not work. We are ready for the consequences of our action,” a defiant
Mwonzora told the Daily News On Sunday.

He also said police were yet to respond to the notification letter of the
protests, which was sent to authorities a fortnight ago.

“We suspect that as usual they are delaying to give us the response
because they want to tell us that we cannot go ahead at the last minute
but we are not going to accept any unjustified banning of the
demonstration.

“We have put down our own security measures where we have about 500
marshals to assist law enforcement agents, because we want a peaceful
process.

“We are expecting that leaders of political parties in Nera will lead over
10 000 people during the protests, although it will be up to them (party
leaders) to decide at which stage of the demonstration to join,” Mwonzora
added.

Zimbabwe’s quest to acquire BVR kits has caused a huge storm among
opposition parties, who view the government’s involvement in the purchase
of the equipment as problematic.

The controversy erupted into the open recently following the government’s
sudden decision to sideline the UNDP from assisting in the procurement of
the BVR kits, with unanswered questions being raised about how and where
President Robert Mugabe’s stone-broke administration was able to secure
funding for this, to the staggering tune of $17 million.

The opposition has alleged that the government is hijacking the process to
rig next year’s eagerly-anticipated national elections.

Mwonzora, told the Daily News On Sunday that Nera was surprised that the
government had “from the blue” chosen to go it alone in the procurement of
the BVR kits.

“It was all along agreed that the procurement of the BVR kits would be
done by Zec through the UNDP. Consequently, a joint advertisement was
flighted by the UNDP and Zec calling upon all potential suppliers of the
kits to place their bids.

“These bids were opened at the UNDP offices in Copenhagen and this was
witnessed by both Zec and political parties. It was further agreed that
once the winner of the tender was declared, political parties would second
their technical experts to inspect these kits.

“But suddenly, the government announced that it was taking over the BVR
kits procurement process. Among other things, this means that the
government will now select the supplier of these kits.

“Crucially, political parties and other key stakeholders will thus not be
able to monitor the process,” Mwonzora pointed out.

With the experience of the 2013 election results, where an Israeli
company, Nikuv, allegedly manipulated the vote in favour of Zanu PF, there
are palpable fears within the opposition that Zanu PF will temper with
next year’s elections.

“Nera totally rejects this move because it is designed to enable the
government to manipulate the procurement process. That way the government
will also manipulate the 2018 election process.

“In other words, this move marks the beginning of the rigging of the 2018
elections … To this end, Nera is organising nationwide demonstrations to
show the people’s outrage at this political abomination. All Zimbabweans,
irrespective of their political affiliation, are called to action,”
Mwonzora said.

Analysts say the Nera protests could herald the beginning of a new season
of protests, following the relative calm that has prevailed in the country
over the past few months, after the panicking government used brute force
to crush rolling protests last year.

University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure,
said tensions could indeed be rising again, warning that the planned
protests could also turn bloody.

“Government will react in a manner that we have all become accustomed to,
that is with heavy-handedness at the slightest sign of potential trouble,”
he said.

Former civic leader, McDonald Lewanika, said the planned protests were
also a sign that the opposition had lost patience with the government, and
was now going for broke.

“What the planned protest by Nera indicates is that all other methods of
persuading the government to allow for an impartial BVR kit purchase by an
impartial arbiter like the UNDP have failed, leaving these parties with no
option but to communicate with their feet in the street.

“As we inch closer to elections in 2018, tensions will continue to rise,
with the election itself as the climax. The planned war vets indaba may
also mark a watershed moment ahead of 2018 … In that respect the
outcomes of that meeting could be telling a year ahead of elections,”
Lewanika said.

Last week, the High Court gave the angry war veterans the green-light to
hold their indaba, which had earlier been stopped by authorities.

War veterans have been feuding with Mugabe since they served him with
divorce papers, after they released a damning communique against the 93
year-old.

The vets are pressing Mugabe to name a successor and ditch a faction
rabidly opposed to his deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, from succeeding him.

Yesterday, the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association
(ZNLWVA) political commissar, Francis Nhando, said Mugabe and Zanu PF did
not want their indaba because it was aimed at addressing the country’s
worsening political and economic rot.

“The reason they don’t want us to meet is that we are the only army that
after fighting colonialism did not end there, but went further to fight
for economic freedom, which saw the land reform programme being
undertaken.

“They also don’t like us because we realised that Morgan Tsvangirai is not
as bad as he was previously portrayed. His only crime is that he is liked
by the British who used to like Mugabe, but later dumped him,” Nhando
said.

Analysts also say the country’s worsening cash shortages, which almost
caused riots by angry tobacco farmers last week, were likely to fuel
further tensions going forward.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of a debilitating economic crisis which has seen
the government failing to pay its workers.

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