By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent
MEMBERS of the Zimbabwe National Army are not trained to feed porridge to the masses, but to ruthlessly crush any public protests whether peaceful or not, deputy defence minister Victor Matemadanda has warned.
The senior government official who also doubles as Zanu PF national political commissar said the army and other state security agencies will descend heavily on protestors scheduled to take to the streets in January 2021 over the country’s worsening socio-economic and political crisis, and grand corruption allegedly perpetrated by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s acolytes.
“Do they allow hooligans to burn shops in Britain? The police will use minimum force and if they don’t succeed in dispersing demonstrators it’s fine. But at the company (defence ministry) where l work, they are not trained in using minimum force. Our soldiers are not trained to feed porridge, they defend the country’s territorial integrity. I urge you to run home when you see them coming,” he said.
The chilling threats were issued by Matemadanda in Chinhoyi Sunday during the ruling party’s Mashonaland West provincial coordinating committee meeting.
He accused the UK and the opposition MDC Alliance of attempting to cause anarchy in Zimbabwe in a bid to effect regime change through sanctions and planned street demonstrations.
Matemadanda said Zanu PF would not stand akimbo as merchants of violence gravitate to make the country ungovernable and soil Mnangagwa’s ‘impeccable’ record as a reformist championing democratic tenets courtesy of the Second Republic.
He castigated ‘vandals, arsonists and thieves’, who participated in previous protests which resulted in the destruction of private property and looting of shops.
Matemadanda warned those flirting with the idea of taking part in the impending demonstrations pencilled for January, they risked facing the full wrath of the ZNA.
“You used to say (former President Robert) Mugabe was bad, now ED (Mnangagwa) has opened up, but still Britain attacks us. They must shut up. We’ve no apology to make about liberating ourselves,” a visibly emotional Matemadanda told party supporters.
“No-one has championed reforms more than President Mnangagwa, as Mugabe never allowed observers (to monitor elections), now they can come freely.”
Through social media posts, MDC Alliance deputy national chairperson Job Sikhala is rallying Zimbabweans to march in the streets against the plunder of the nation’s natural resources by the ruling elite. The protests are scheduled to be held starting January next year.
“Brace for action in January,” Sikhala warned.
“They don’t want us to say it out when their footprint of looting is everywhere. We will not stop saying it, will not stop urging people into action. January is coming. I say January is coming,” reads a post ostensibly sent by the tough-talking Zengeza West MP.
Sikhala, a staunch critic of Mnangagwa’s administration, has been arrested several times for allegedly attempting to overthrow a constitutionally elected government.
One of the cases is currently before the courts.
However, Matemadanda told opposition political actors and the West they cannot lecture Mnangagwa on democracy as the EU, the UK, and the US had tightened sanctions on Zimbabwe despite overtures by the incumbent government to reengage and institute economic and political reforms.
On 1 August 2018, ZNA members shot and killed six Harare residents after MDC Alliance supporters had staged a demonstration in the central business district over the delay by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) in announcing the July 30 presidential election result. Scores were also injured on the day.
In January 2019, security forces used live ammunition that killed 17 people demonstrating against a steep hike in fuel increases that were announced by Mnangagwa. At least 17 women were raped by suspected state agents during that period.
On 31 July 2020, security forces foiled a planned anti-corruption demonstration, and scores of political activists including Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume, journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and Sikhala were arrested.