By Andrew Kunambura
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa took Police Commissioner General Godwin Matanga to task over the ZRP’s frequent decisions to ban Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) campaign rallies across the country, intelligence and official sources told NewZimbabwe.com Monday.
According to the sources, this took place at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on Wednesday last week when Matanga, along with other service chiefs, ministers and senior Zanu PF officials, welcomed Mnangagwa back from his Dubai trip.
Sources at the airport that evening said they overheard Mnangagwa expressing concern at the ZRP’s attitude towards CCC rallies.
They said Mnangagwa took particular exception to the Marondera rally which failed to take place the previous Saturday after police refused to sanction the gathering on the pretext that the party’s notification came at short notice.
“As you know these dignitaries do not like to miss those occasions to show their faces to the president and they line up to greet him. That is when Matanga came up for some roasting,” a source said.
“The president was clearly unamused. I think he spent a minute or so quizzing Matanga on why he was allowing that to happen. He pointed out to him that this was tarnishing the image of the country abroad and inviting unnecessary attention on Zimbabwe.”
“He was particularly concerned with the Marondera rally which attracted a lot of attention and wanted to know the exact reasons why police could not permit the rally.”
Sources said Matanga appeared flabbergasted and gave Mnangagwa a “clueless stare” as he tried to come up with an answer.
“He was really flabbergasted. At first he said the rally was banned because of fears of violence and then immediately blamed the courts for not attending to the CCC application on time. The president appeared unsatisfied and, as he walked on, said: ‘pagadzirisei ipapo (please fix it),”’the source said.
But, the sources further said, it was not clear whether Mnangagwa was genuine in his probing or playing to the gallery since only two days later, police in Masvingo banned CCC’s rally on the pretext that Zanu PF had booked the same venues ahead of the Nelson Chamisa-led opposition.
The rally only went ahead after the Masvingo High Court quashed the police ban and instructed police to provide necessary security.
It also turned out that the ruling party did not have any rallies planned for either Mucheke or Mamutse Stadium as police claimed. The stadiums were empty all day.
Again, Mnangagwa was actually touring Matabeleland North province drumming up support for Zanu PF National Assembly candidates for Binga North and Hwange Central constituencies.
Police have come under heavy criticism in the run-up to the Saturday elections after they banned Chamisa’s rallies in Gokwe and Marondera.
Efforts to get a comment from Matanga were fruitless while ZRP nationals spokesperson Paul Nyathi said he was unaware of the incident.