Tensions are rising in Zimbabwe as militants of the ruling party, Zanu-PF, begin another bout of intimidation, harassment and violence against members and supporters of the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The power sharing deal between President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC, according to the Zimbabwean opposition, has been breached.
“This could be the beginning of worse things to come, and the depth of the crisis could not be underestimated. We take this very seriously. We are possibly on the brink of another storm of persecution and intimidation,” Mr. Nelson Chamisa, spokesperson of Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change. According to reports from the capital city, Harare, Zimbabweans are anxiously waiting for a resolution to the crisis as hopes continue to rise and fall.
On Tuesday, October 27, Sheila Mashaire, a senior MDC, said she was stopped on her way to party headquarters early on Tuesday and beaten by armed men who threatened to arrest her. Another MDC top official was also stopped and beaten up by militants from Zanu-PF.
Mr. Chamisa told reporters in Harare, that acts of violence against MDC supporters had started happening in both urban and rural areas, adding that the pattern of violence was reminiscent of the attacks on MDC supporters during last year’s elections. Last year’s election run-off was marred by state-sponsored violence.
Over the weekend, Zimbabwe police raided Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s residency claiming they were searching for stolen dangerous weapons from the police or the army. The MDC later announced that it feared that the police could have planted arms of war in the garden after they took the caretaker, Moffat Sigauke, into the house while many officers remained outside.
Zanu-PF has not commented on the spate of violence, but a senior member – Ephraim Masawi – denied the MDC allegations, describing them as cheap propaganda.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, boycotted a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, for a second time in two weeks in protest at Zanu-PF’s failure to implement measures agreed to as a part of the power-sharing deal. Ananlysts in Zimbabwe have however criticized the MDC, saying their decision to disengage from government was unfortunate, and borders on the party’s inability to negotiate.
The MDC has threatened to call for fresh elections if a meeting of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) later this week fails to break the deadlock. “If that fails… a free and fair election under the supervision of the international community, Sadc (Southern African Development Community) and the African Union will be the only option. If they [Mr Mugabe and the Zanu-PF] are facing west we are facing east,” Mr Chamisa said.
Analysts say there are factions within both parties who still find it extremely difficult to work together since the government was formed in February following last year’s violent and disputed elections. But Zimbabwe senior official, Mr. Arthur Mutambara, who leads a separate faction of the MDC party, said the leaders must continue to talk.
“There are hardliners in Zanu who are taking the opportunity to offend all of us in government – offend our colleagues led by Morgan Tsvangirai. What they want is the collapse of the government. What we need to do is to make sure we don’t fall into that trap. We have to be clever, we have to be strategic, and we have to out-think them,” Mutambara was quoted by reporters.