The Sunday News
Darlington Musarurwa, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
DETAILS of how the United States of America Ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols actively encouraged senior MDC officials to press on with Friday’s demonstrations by assuring them that Washington “would impose punitive measures should Government arrest or assault the protesters”, have emerged.
Diplomatic sources privy to be behind-the-scenes engagement between US embassy officials and the MDC top leadership told our Harare Bureau that the grand scheme is part of a broader co-ordinated project that also includes civil society organisations, some of which have been planning protests against President Emmerson Mnangagwa during the ongoing Sadc Summit that ends today.
However, alert Tanzanian authorities, who were aware of the planned protects, which were supposed to coincide with the protests in Harare, reportedly “strongly warned” the organisers of the grave implications of the plans.
Government and security officials have been consistently warning that there is a “third hand” behind the disturbances that have been plaguing Zimbabwe since the July 30, 2018 elections.
Sources said Ambassador Nichols, his deputy Thomas Hastings and regional security officer Patrick Bellinger, including Mrs Nichols and Mrs Hastings, met MDC deputy chairperson Job Sikhala on Thursday — the eve of the planned demonstrations — at the latter’s home in St Mary’s, Chitungwiza. Mr Nichols left after 30 minutes.
“In their engagement with Sikhala, the American diplomats urged the MDC to go ahead with the demonstrations until their demands were met. They assured him that the US was watching the developments and would impose punitive measures should Government arrest or assault the protesters,” said the sources.
Sikhala reportedly apprised the Americans about the rift within the opposition and claimed Chamisa “was unsuitable to lead the party”. Added the sources: “On his part, Sikhala highlighted developments in the MDC.
“He accused MDC leader Nelson Chamisa of cowardice, adding that he was unsuitable to lead the party. He claimed that himself and deputy president Tendai Biti were better placed to lead the MDC, citing that they were brave and had been previously arrested.
“Sikhala telephoned MDC national deputy secretary for international affairs, Douglas Mwonzora, to come and meet the diplomats, but the latter failed to arrive on time. Sikhala took the four diplomats on a tour of Chitungwiza. They visited Chigovanyika, Chikwanha, Huruyadzo, Makoni and Zengeza 2 shopping centres, taking photographs.”
The latest development, they claimed, proved beyond reasonable doubt that the Americans were behind the destabilisation activities in the country. But the involvement of the Americans is understood to be causing a rift in top ranks of the opposition party.
It is believed that there is a group of disillusioned supporters who are “alive to the futility of the demonstrations”, which the MDC hopes would begin to snowball from this week to the upcoming annual United Nations General Assembly in New York scheduled for September.
“The group is made up of innocent MDC members who are not privy to the factional squabbles within the party and are not eager to demonstrate for fear of a repeat of the August 1, 2018, and 14 and 16 January 2019 violent protests.
“The group has also questioned what the demonstration would achieve in light of the fact that it would only be staged for four hours and people go back home to face the same economic challenges,” added the sources.
Separately, briefed diplomatic sources said the planned disturbances in Harare were timed to coincide with the demonstrations by the Southern African People’s Solidarity Network (SAPSN) in Tanzania, which were calculated to pooh-pooh the decision by Sadc to elect President Mnangagwa as the chair of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation.
Participants to non-governmental organisation (NGO)’s five-day “programme” jetted here on Thursday and had tentatively planned to march to hand over their communiqué – ostensibly drafted to besmirch the President – to the Sadc secretariat yesterday.
But the Tanzanian authorities reportedly strongly warned that “the stunt” would not be tolerated. The programme was running under the theme “Rebuilding People’s Movements within Southern Africa’s Climate, Political and Socioeconomic Emergencies, Towards Radical Democratic Alternatives and Just Transition.”
The group is comprised of Nqobizitha Mlambo from Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development, Clayton Manjova (Heal Zimbabwe Trust), Lloyd Sesemani (artisanal miner), Michael Ndiweni (BVTA and Youth NAD), Foster Thole (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Blessing Vava (Crisis in Zimbabwe) Joy Mabenge (Action Aid), Tinashe Madondo (Family Aids Caring Trust) and Cloud Fusire, a university student.
It also includes Thulani Mswelanto (Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition), Charles Kataure (ZNNP+), Phakamani Moyo (PATA), Ropafadzo Sandra Shoko (a law student), Lydia Dhliwayo (Zimcodd), Confidence Bobo (Zimcodd) and Margarety Nyakuhwa (FACT).
Mr Mlambo is widely viewed as the brains behind MDC-Alliance youth wing — the Vanguard — which has been accused of hounding political rivals within the party, including former deputy president Dr Thokozani Khupe.
It is believed that the MDC’s trail of suspicious meetings and exchanges with hostile forces has exposed it in the region.
Police last week issued a prohibition order against MDC planned protests, but some elements defied the ban notwithstanding the decision by the High Court to uphold the order. Law enforcement agents had to disperse the demonstrators.
However, the MDC is determined to continue with its protests purportedly to catapult the opposition party into power. The absence of MDC leaders who abandoned the demonstrators despite publicly throwing their weight behind the protests has also been roundly condemned by some party members that are unaware of the liaisons between senior officials and hostile foreign officials. Security officials continue to claim that there are forces that are behind disturbances the country has been experiencing since last year.