By A Correspondent- Opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa has urged his supporters to lie low to protect themselves from violent attacks from Zanu-PF loyalists as tempers between the two major political party rivals continue to flare ahead of next year’s general elections.
Addressing a Press conference in Harare yesterday, Chamisa, whose campaign rally in Gokwe was blocked by rowdy Zanu-PF activists on Thursday, urged his supporters to adopt what he termed “Operation Mango — green outside and yellow inside”, where they pretend to be Zanu-PF supporters in public while remaining opposition at heart.
They have localised violence to make sure that they will stop me. I want to say to Zanu-PF, I will go anywhere, and everywhere, you will not stop me,” Chamisa said.
“I have been telling people that if they want to kill you for T-shirts, don’t worry about them. Let’s go Operation Mango — yellow outside, green inside. Why? To preserve yourselves. Be Zanu in their slogan, be Zanu-PF wherever you are going, but show and maintain your integrity to support the change.”
His statement came in the wake of violent clashes which erupted in Mashonaland East and Midlands provinces this week, where suspected armed Zanu-PF youths disrupted CCC rallies and attacked Chamisa’s campaign vehicles.
Several CCC supporters and journalists were injured in the skirmishes that occurred at illegal roadblocks reportedly mounted by Zanu-PF youth in Wedza and Gokwe to stop Chamisa’s campaign rallies.
But the youthful opposition leader declared that he would not be cowed into submission, adding that he would “fight peacefully” for his constitutional rights.
“You are not the owners of this land. Zimbabwe belongs to Zimbabweans. Mr (Emmerson) Mnangagwa, accept fair competition, don’t resort to your tactics that you have been using. They will not work. I can tell you that I am ready to fight peacefully,” he said.
“Just in the past six months alone, it’s shocking that we have had over 26 arrests of mainly opposition leaders. Just in Gokwe alone, 13 people were injured. I saw all of them.”
Analysts and human rights watchdogs have predicted a violent run-up to the 2023 polls.
The run-up to the March 26 by-elections were also marred by political violence.
A CCC activist, Mboneni Ncube, was speared to death by suspected Zanu-PF supporters at a rally addressed by Chamisa in Kwekwe in February ahead of the by-elections.
Chamisa also bemoaned the involvement of senior Zanu-PF officials in the violence that erupted in Gokwe and urged authorities to put in place measures that promote peace.
He was referring to Local Government minister July Moyo and the ruling party’s Midlands provincial chairperson provincial chairperson Larry Mavhima and former chairperson Mackenzie Ncube, who were witnessed by NewsDay Weekender directing the police to block Chamisa’s rally in Gokwe.
“Government ministers are behaving like thugs. They literally incite violence, sponsor violence and co-ordinate violence, which is very unfortunate. What we want is to insist on peace,” Chamisa said.
He added: “As I have said, rural areas have become centres of mass victimisation. Intimidation and terror against citizens, particularly those that are in the alternative is on the rise. Our chiefs are in trouble. Village heads are in trouble. They are being subjected to incessant harassment. Food and support from government is being weaponised.
Violence has also become a big issue. The human rights situation in the country has gotten to another level. What is clear is that the subject of the matter is human rights in the rural areas. People do not have access to basic services.”
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) yesterday red-flagged a rise in political tension in the country ahead of the 2023 polls.
In a statement, ZPP said: “ZPP is concerned about the violence that is meant to violate the right to freedom of assembly and association. Political parties should always rein in their supporters so that they respect the rights of all citizens even if they are their political rivals.”
Zanu-PF has often accused the opposition of stage-managing the violence to attract the attention of their “Western funders”.
On Wednesday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa described Chamisa as “a mad man”.
Addressing congregants at the Johane Masowe Vadzidzi VaJesu shrine in Madziva, Mashonaland Central province, Mnangagwa said: “We also have a mad man in our midst who thinks that Zimbabwe will be developed by the British or Americans. We cannot stop him but he will continue to bark without ruling.