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The government has issued a chilling warning to the MDC-T over planned demonstrations against bond notes and this could herald a return to the dark days of State-sponsored violence.
As the custodian of the rule of law, peace and stability in the country, Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo should know that demonstrations are provided for in the Constitution and anyone is free to protest against the government.
Why the government intends to respond with violence to any protest is anyone’s guess, but it betrays the fear that authorities have of ordinary Zimbabweans.
As Chombo knows, the courts have upheld the right to demonstrate and freedom of association and his warning to the MDC-T raises the spectre that the government could thwart the protests in spite of any court ruling and this is cause for concern.
If the government has so much faith in the bond notes, then it should allow any kind of peaceful protest and respond by proving the demonstrators wrong by showing how beneficial, if ever, the new notes would be rather than this paranoid and reactionary response.
What Chombo’s warning betrays is that the government is fully aware that the bond notes are infinitely unpopular and the MDC-T demonstration is bound to be fully subscribed and show that authorities are out of touch with the people.
Rather than threaten force, Chombo and his colleagues should be expending their energies on fixing the economy at best, or at worst marketing the bond notes and ensuring the public has a better understanding of their use.
But the Home Affairs minister knows the government is incapable of either and has responded by threatening to come down heavily on the MDC-T and anyone who demonstrates against the government’s woeful handling of the economy.
Zanu PF is planning to hold its own demonstrations in support of their leader later this month and not once have we heard Chombo issue such a spine-chilling warning, despite the obvious factionalism and threats of violence that have been the hallmark of the planning of the so-called million-man march.
Clearly, the message Chombo is telling us is that there is a different law for different organisations and this is unacceptable in this age.
Chombo must be reminded to respect the Constitution, which his party signed up to and we hope the MDC-T exploits the charter fully and that its protests are allowed.
It is not lost on us that Chombo’s warning to crush the protests comes as the government is yet to give us answers on the whereabouts of activist Itai Dzamara, who has been missing for over a year now, yet his only crime was to hold peaceful demonstrations.
The government’s responses to demonstrations in the past have been brutal, but surely they cannot continue to expect Zimbabweans to quietly swallow their unpopular policies.
At some point Zimbabweans are going to take a stand and say enough is enough despite the threat of violent State-sponsored clampdowns.