Zanu PF cracks down on 'rebels'

HARARE - A panicking Zanu PF government — reeling from growing citizen unrest around the country — is flexing its muscles and cracking down heavily on dissenters, with suspended prosecutor general Johannes Tomana, former ruling party rising star Acie Lumumba and Tajamuka/Sesijikile spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi being arrested on varying charges yesterday.

Tomana, who already faces the onerous task of convincing a three-member tribunal led by retired judge Moses Chinhengo that he is fit to keep his job, was arrested on fresh charges of criminal abuse of duty.

Police spokesperson Charity Charamba confirmed the arrest to the Daily News last night, saying: “Yes, Tomana has been arrested on five counts of criminal abuse of duty as defined in Section 174 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act … or alternatively defeating or obstructing the course of justice”.

On Thursday, President Robert Mugabe replaced Tomana with Ray Goba, saying he had taken the move to allow investigations against him to proceed.

The suspended PG is in court facing claims of obstructing the course of justice, after he withdrew charges of possession of weaponry for insurgence purposes against Slilas Pfupa, 37, and Solomon Makumbe, 29, who were allegedly caught attempting to bomb Mugabe’s Alpha Omega Dairies.

However, Zanu PF insiders claim that Tomana’s continuing troubles are linked to the ruling party’s ugly succession ructions.

It was also confirmed last night that police had also arrested Mkwananzi on charges related to public violence that was allegedly committed on June 16 this year.

But Mkwananzi’s lawyer Trust Maanda — who accompanied him to Harare Central police station — dismissed the charges, saying there was “no justification for his arrest”.

“The police said they wanted to interrogate him and we knew the line they were taking since they had done the same to others. But somehow they are saying he was involved in public violence on June 16.

“Now they have taken him to the cells ... there is no justification whatsoever for his arrest. In other words we can’t trust the police,” Maanda told the Daily News.

On Thursday, Tajamuka/Sesijikile not only called on Mugabe to resign immediately, but also threatened to storm State House today, after the daring pressure group played a prominent role in Wednesday’s stay-away which shut the country down and was widely seen as the biggest general strike to have been mounted in the history of post-independent Zimbabwe.

“By August 31, 2016, President Robert Mugabe must have either made way for a transitional government or addressed the country stating when he will leave because we do not believe that in his current state he is still capable of superintending the reform agenda that we are advocating for in the country.

“We believe that Mugabe is the sticking point to reform because of his long incumbency and so he has to make way for a transitional authority and if that does not happen, there are a number of actions that we will take including escalating the protests and we have a well thought out strategy to compel him to comply.

“The time for fear is over, we need to be resolute because we believe what we are doing is not illegal. There is no going back; more stay aways and demonstrations are coming,” Mkwananzi, said then on in a move that is said to have rattled Zanu PF.

With regard to Lumumba, who is already in the doo-doo on charges of insulting Mugabe last week, sources told the Daily News that he had allegedly been picked up by police in the wee hours of yesterday morning, in an unrelated matter said to date back to 2008 and involving a car.

The nervous governing party, was forced to convene an emergency politburo meeting in Harare on Wednesday, as Zimbabweans ratcheted up pressure on the former liberation movement against the background of its 36 years of misrule.

The politburo meeting not only coincided with Wednesday’s history-making general strike, it also came after Monday’s deadly riots in Harare, which saw stretched police deploying their members in full force around the country — with security helicopters menacingly buzzing around most high density suburbs in the capital, while armoured vehicles combed the streets in a desperate endeavour to stem the anarchy.

Commenting on the convening of that politburo meeting, the former advisor to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Alex Magaisa, said that the emergency gathering was similar to the one that was held eight years ago, just before the country plunged into total chaos.

“Zimbabwe is entering a phase for which citizens must be prepared for anything. History tells us that Zanu PF reacts viciously to anything that threatens its survival. Back in 2008, the Zanu-PF politburo met on April 4, just 5 days after the March 29 elections. By then they knew they had lost the elections and that power was slipping away.

“Their response is well recorded ... It was vicious and diabolical. But it’s important for Zimbabweans to be prepared,” Magaisa said.

Another senior Zanu PF official who also spoke to the Daily News then appeared to validate Magaisa’s fears, saying most government bigwigs crassly suspected that Tsvangirai’s MDC, aided by “hostile external forces”, was behind the worsening unrest in the country.

Wednesday’s general strike was so stunningly successful that a prominent opposition figure openly admitted to the Daily News that he was “very envious” that ordinary Zimbabweans, working on their own and without the support of political leaders and their parties, had managed to pull off such an improbable feat.

“What happened on Monday and today (Wednesday) is huge. To be honest, I’m very envious of what the povo (Portuguese word for poor, ordinary people) have achieved. Never before has this regime been rocked like this from all angles. As a result, I’m now also convinced that the end is nigh for them (Mugabe and Zanu PF),” he said.

From Harare to Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, Masvingo, Kwekwe, Beitbridge, Bindura, Chipinge and other smaller towns, all the major urban areas resembled haunted ghost towns as Zimbabweans heeded the social media-driven call to shut down the country for the day.

Even the normally-bustling Mbare marketplace in the capital had an eerie feel to it. Many businesses, including banks and large retail shops — particularly in high density suburbs — also closed their doors for the day, with very few commuter omnibuses on the roads to ferry travellers. And not even the suspicious shutdown of the popular multi-platform mobile phone messaging service, WhatsApp, in the early part of the day, could shake the growing spirit of resistance sweeping the entire length and breadth of the country.

Analysts who spoke to the Daily News said not even the huge 1998 stay-away, which was led by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai when he was still in charge of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions had come close to Wednesday’s general strike.

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