BY LORRAINE MUROMO/TATENDA CHITAGU/GARY MTHOMBENI
THE ruling Zanu PF party yesterday moved to silence critics by threatening to impose local sanctions against its opponents and all persons it accuses of inviting Western sanctions against the party’s leadership and government.
The party’s youth league Affairs deputy secretary Tendai Chirau yesterday said plans were afoot to activate a local sanctions policy against government and ruling party critics.
“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 at the first session of the 2022 Zanu PF youth league national executive meeting.
“The right to democracy should never be abused by people who want to work with those who are against the development of this country. How do you benefit from the government that you try everyday? Yes, the government has a responsibility to take care of you, but everyday, you are calling this government illegal and illegitimate.”
The threats come amid concerns over shrinking democratic space, with critics warning that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration wanted to silence dissenting voices through a raft of laws such as the Private Voluntary Organisations Act (PVO) Act and the mooted Patriot Bill.
Cabinet in 2021 approved amendment to the laws governing operations of PVOs to make engaging in political activities by non-governmental organisations a punishable offence.
But critics said this was part of Mnangagwa’s government’s broader strategy to silence civic groups ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The amendments will give government powers to deregister PVOs, whose activities it disapproves of and punish them for “non-compliance”.
“There are many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and their preoccupation is that they get money, and use it to make sure that people vote in a certain way and we are aware and we know those NGOs. We know what they are doing,” Chirau added.
“You never see these NGOs sponsoring empowerment initiatives for the people, but they sponsor these youths to do demonstrations. We are dealing with a party which is anti-people promoting the issue of drug abuse and it should be voted out and it should never be anywhere near power, even near leading a burial society or anything else in life because they are dangerous to the society.”
In 2018, the Zanu PF secretary for youth affairs, Pupurai Togarepi suggested a Patriot Act to prosecute Zimbabweans that allegedly speak ill of the country and advocate for economic sanctions.
In October, 2020 Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs permanent secretary Virginia Mabhiza said principles of the Bill had been drafted.
Meanwhile, Acting President Constantino Chiwenga yesterday called for peace ahead of the March 26 by-elections.
He made the call yesterday during World Wetlands Day commemorations held at Njovo wetlands in Zezai village in Masvingo.
“As we head for elections, campaigns should be peaceful. We don’t want violence. All we want is peace. We know of other political parties that want to cause chaos so that other countries may intervene in our affairs,” Chiwenga said.