In an interview with The Associated Press, Nelson Chamisa also warned that any evidence of tampering by Mnangagwa’s ruling party in upcoming elections could lead to “total disaster” for a beleaguered nation that is in economic ruin and already under United States and European Union sanctions for its human rights record.
Chamisa, who will challenge Mnangagwa and the ruling ZANU-PF party’s 43-year hold on power in the 23 August presidential, parliamentary and local government elections, claimed widespread intimidation against his opposition party ahead of the vote.
Chamisa said Mnangagwa has utilised institutions like the police and the courts to crack down on critical figures, ban opposition rallies and prevent candidates from running. He laid out a series of concerns that indicate the country, with its history of violent and disputed elections, could be heading for another one.
In rural areas far from the international spotlight, many of Zimbabwe’s 15 million people are making their political choices under the threat of violence, Chamisa alleged. People are getting driven to ruling party rallies and threatened to support Mnangagwa and the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front if they want to stay safe — or even alive.
Chamisa, who leads the Citizens Coalition for Change party, called it a choice of “death or ZANU-PF” for some.
“Mnangagwa is clearly triggering a national crisis,” he said during the interview in his 11th-floor office in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. “He is driving the country into chaos. He is actually instigating instability. He is violating the law. He is tearing apart institutions of the country.”
A man wearing the yellow colours of Chamisa’s CCC party was beaten and stoned to death yesterday on the way to a political rally, police said. The CCC accused ZANU-PF followers of killing him and attacking other opposition supporters.
Mnangagwa has repeatedly denied allegations of intimidation and violence by authorities or his party and has publicly called on his supporters to act peacefully during the campaign.
But Chamisa’s portrayal of a highly repressive political landscape in the southern African nation — where the removal of autocrat Robert Mugabe in 2017 appears to have been a false dawn — is backed by reports released by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch ahead of the elections taking place in less than three weeks.
They will take place amid “five years of brutal crackdowns on human rights,” Amnesty said, since Mnangagwa gained power from Mugabe in a coup and then won a disputed presidential election by a razor-thin margin against Chamisa in 2018. In its assessment, Human Rights Watch said Zimbabwean authorities have “weaponized the criminal justice system against the ruling party’s opponents” and the buildup to the vote has not met free and fair international standards.
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