President Robert Mugabe has reportedly put the country’s military apparatus on standby, as fears of social unrest grow in Zimbabwe, NewsDay has learnt.
The country’s security chiefs were reportedly in panic mode and late on Monday went into a closed-door session to devise a plan to deal with expected protests by pro-democracy groups beginning today.
Zimbabwe’s securocrats and the Cabinet security cluster, comprising of ministers responsible for Home Affairs, State Security and Defence, reportedly held an emergency meeting of the Joint Operations Command (JOC) on Monday, as fears of unrest grew.
Highly-placed government sources told NewsDay that the meeting “was a special one to specifically come up with strategies to deal with recent protests and planned ones”.
JOC normally holds its weekly meetings every Thursday.
“The police and the intelligence departments gave detailed reports on what happened in Beitbridge and how they contained the situation. During the presentation, it was noted that police officers, through their intelligence units, were aware of the planned (Beitbridge) demonstrations, but did nothing to contain the issue.
“State Security minister (Kembo Mohadi) raised questions why police did not prevent the protests by arresting the instigators,” a senior official, who attended the meeting, which lasted over four hours at Chaminuka Building, said.
Mohadi reportedly blamed the police’s inertia for the destruction of property that saw a Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) warehouse going up in smoke, as unrest hit the border town late last week.
Although acting Information minister Joseph Made refused to comment directly on the emergency meeting, he said government had put measures to ensure business would not be disturbed.
“We are appealing to our civil servants not to take heed of the proposed stay-away.
Government is aware of those who are plotting to cause chaos in the country and the security departments will deal with them if they want to cause disharmony in our country,” he said.
Another government official, who attended the meeting said: “It was resolved to trace those who are suspected to be instigating the anarchy, with prime targets being Stern Zvorwadza (leader of the National Vendors’ Union of Zimbabwe), Tajamuka’s Promise Mkwananzi, Patson Dzamara of Occupy Africa Unity Square, Evan Mawarire, who leads #ThisFlag , the MDC-T leadership and diplomatic missions, particularly those of the United States and Britain, to see their involvement in these latest protests.”
The official added: “The meeting also resolved to deal with civil servants’ union leaders who are pushing for government workers not to go to work this Wednesday (today)”.
Apex Council, a body representing government workers, urged civil servants to go on strike from yesterday, demanding their June salaries.
Mawarire’s #ThisFlag movement has also called for a total shutdown of the country today to force government to deal decisively with the deteriorating economic situation as well as corruption.
The JOC meeting, sources said, decided security details would be deployed in the country’s potential hot-spots and monitor leading figures in the anti-Mugabe demonstrations.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said: “We are aware that criminal elements are instigating and inciting members of the public to engage in lawlessness such as burning of shops, tyres and any other forms of mischief. Police will be deployed to ensure safe passage to work.”