BY MOSES MATENGA
MDC Alliance president Nelson Chamisa yesterday warned President Emmerson Mnangagwa against “stoking political fires” through arbitrary arrests of his opponents and silencing of divergent voices.
Chamisa told NewsDay in an interview yesterday that the Zimbabwean government’s arbitrary arrests and torture of opposition activists and other citizens who hold divergent views were likely to escalate ahead of the 2023 harmonised elections, if they were not nipped in the bud.
He also called on the African Union regional bodies to act swiftly in condemning dictatorship on the African continent, as well as use of the military in settling political contestation disputes like what happened in Uganda during last week’s elections, where veteran leader President Yoweri Museveni was announced as winner of an election mired by intimidation and arrests of opposition leaders.
Museveni was announced winner, with the army camped at his rival Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu (Bobi Wine)’s residence.
On the arrests of journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, the MDC Alliance vice-chairperson Job Sikhala and party spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere and others, Chamisa said it was clear that the Mnangagwa administration was using “the law as a tool for oppression in Zimbabwe”.
He said that intimidation of opposition leaders and divergent voices was the same template that was used by African dictators.
“It is the same template used by dictators. It represents a major attack on alternative voices. It shows that our country is sliding back into the Rhodesian settler regime era, where politics of repression, torture, and arbitrary arrests were the order of the day. It is a signifier of shrinking democratic space,” the main opposition leader said.
He said the country was sliding back into anarchy and tyranny taking advantage of the COVID-19 lockdown period.
“We are sliding back into anarchy and tyranny. Whereas we have COVID-19, we have a pandemic of authoritarianism. We have a disease of despotism and dictatorship, escalation of persecution by prosecution.”
He added: “It is an attempt to poison the nation and stoke fires of hostility. Instead of my opposite number Mnangagwa being a father figure, he is choosing to behave like the last born in the family, starting fires and mischief when we need a head of State and sober mind.
“We don’t need to be pyromaniacs. He is in the habit of starting fires and a government leader must not start fires but extinguish them. This is advice I am giving to my opposite number Mnangagwa for free. He who starts fires often gets burnt by those fires. This is genuine elderly advice.
“Stop harassing citizens. It’s always wise not to make the mistake of growing old without growing up. Zimbabwe needs maturity and magnanimity, as well as tolerance in politics.”
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo was not picking calls yesterday for a comment. But Zanu PF is on record distancing itself from the abuse of State machinery for political gain.
On the issue of the just-ended Ugandan elections, Chamisa said it spelt doom for Africa, adding that regional bodies must stand against such “gigantic fraud.”
“It is ominous and spells doom for the African continent. A disputed election places a danger on our continent’s march to democracy and progressive governance.”
“There is a disturbing new wave of dictators, wherein the incumbent abuses State institutions to perpetuate their grip on political power.
“No sitting President must abuse State institutions for personal purposes. Nobody must abuse key people institutions like the army, the police or courts to redeem their fortunes in a political office.
“Apart from COVID-19, we now have the authoritarian pandemic of dictatorship and disputed elections. We have seen election disputes in Africa. We have shining examples in South Africa and recently Malawi. Brutal killings and elimination of competitors in the name of politics has no place in the new Africa that we seek to build.”
He said no life should be lost on account of politics and elections.
“Oppression must come to an end. Oppression will end when the oppressed stand up and the oppressor is forced to sit down and bow out. This has been the most unfair, violent election campaign in recent times with the butchering of innocent citizens almost on an industrial scale.
“The expression of the will of the people cannot be altered by an army like what we saw in Uganda. That is unacceptable. The persecution of Bobi Wine is an attack on the fresh face of Africa and an attack on the largest constituency on the continent, the young people who must stand up and dominate Africa,” he said.
Chamisa said the African Union and African bodies must condemn and disregard such gigantic fraud of the people’s will. He said the AU should stand up to condemn and not endorse Museveni’s tomfoolery.