'Protests to split Zanu PF further'

HARARE - Zanu PF’s rift is set to widen further, as the escalating anti-President Robert Mugabe protests are likely to create more divisions within the ruling party, an Oxford-linked think tank, NKC African Economics (NKC), said.

NKC’s analyst, Gary van Staden, said “we can . . . expect to see increased infighting and splintering of Zanu PF, as once loyal cadres look to abandon a sinking ship”.

“This will further escalate the tensions in Zimbabwe’s political environment,” he said, adding that “where all this eventually leads is uncertain, but what is quite certain now is that all bets are off”.

Van Staden said the on-going protests are expected to gather momentum and anger some security officials loyal to Mugabe.

“That implies we can expect to see heightened levels of intimidation and harassment of opposition members — particularly those seen to be in leadership positions — including arbitrary arrests and attacks on people and property,” he said.

He also said despite government issuing several warnings threatening to brutally quash the demonstrations, protesters have remained defiant.

“If Zanu PF thought it would be possible to sit out the current wave of protests and allow the momentum to fade as has tended to be the case previously, then the march in Harare last Friday . . . would have sent a warning that this time might be different,” Van Staden said.

“Despite the brutal reaction of the police, who once again resorted to force and violence to intimidate protestors who were acting legally, the message was that the protest movement was unbowed and would gather and march again, and again. ‘See you all next Friday’ was the defiant call after police used teargas, rubber bullets and batons against protestors who had obtained permission from the courts to stage their protest,” he said.

Since 2014, Zanu PF has been rattled by serious factionalism and divisions, with scores of the party’s senior members — some who have been with the party since the liberation struggle — purged.

Several of those were ousted on untested allegations of attempting to assassinate and topple Mugabe include former vice president Joice Mujuru — now leading her own Zimbabwe People First political party, former Zanu PF secretary for administration Dydimus Mutasa and Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo.

Zimbabwe is currently experiencing serious crises that include cash shortages, high unemployment and poverty.

Prompted by the debilitating crises, citizens have taken to the streets demand that 92-year-old Mugabe steps down immediately.

Since the citizen-dominated protests started, opposition political parties have joined forces in solidarity, a move that has shaken Mugabe and his government.

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