TOP Zanu PF officials’ threats to punish critics with local sanctions for holding the ruling party and government to account, is shocking and only strengthens the belief that the ruling party is averse to the tenets of democracy.
This is a worrying development from President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s party as the country heads towards the March 26 by-elections, and the watershed 2023 general elections.
The threats came just after the country’s human rights record, including its anti-democratic laws, came under global spotlight at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) working group meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.
Zanu PF youth league deputy secretary Tendai Chirau declared during the first session of the 2022 Zanu PF youth league national executive meeting in Harare on Wednesday, that time had come to sanction government critics for pushing a regime change agenda.
“I think we should actually have local sanctions against such people who fight against the government. We must actually activate local sanctions against such people because of people who are against the aspirations of this country,” Chirau said.
Such remarks are dangerous and careless and have the potential to ignite violence as the country enters election season.
To Chirau, Zimbabwe is a typical Animal Farm setting as portrayed by George Orwell in epic his novel with the same title, where only ruling party members have exceptional rights and can ride roughshod over others with impunity.
Chirau also singled out non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for allegedly funding anti-government demonstrations.
One can be forgiven for concluding that this is a choreographed plan to restrict democratic freedoms, including implementing harsh laws against NGOs.
Many of the NGOs operating in the country are responsible for defending human rights, mobilising food aid and providing services to the indigent, among other critical roles.
Some of the NGOs have been quite vocal against promulgation of draconian laws such as the Private Voluntary Organisation Bill that imposes new restrictions on forming, operating and funding civil society organisations.
Zimbabwe cannot be part of a community of democratic nations when its leaders and those in the ruling party resort to bullying citizens who hold different views into silence.
The attempts to silence critics threaten to turn the country into a banana republic where the law of the jungle reigns supreme.
Zanu PF must respect citizen’s rights and freedoms as guaranteed in the Constitution’s Bill of rights.
Threatening individuals for expressing themselves has no space in a civilised society. Mnangagwa must rein in excitable party rogues such as Chirau if his incessant calls for peace and tolerance are to carry any weight. Bullying has no space in a civilised society.
He should step in and remind his party apparatchiks that government and Zanu PF are mutually exclusive, although the whole world knows that the ruling party has blurred the lines between State and party to push its nefarious agenda.