, Harare, Zimbabwe, Jan 29 – Zimbabwe’s main opposition said Tuesday a violent crackdown on civilians by the new government was worse than anything in recent years under ousted leader Robert Mugabe, accusing Harare of escalating “terrorism”.
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Nelson Chamisa said state repression had reached new levels following scenes of “terror” when security forces crushed protests over fuel price rises.
“This is now 14 months after Mr. Mugabe exiting the political stand, but what we are seeing is actually an escalation, not only of the Mugabe type of terror, but we are actually seeing something that makes Mugabe look like a baby in terms of terrorism,” Chamisa told a news conference.
He addressed the media in the gutted lobby of his party HQ which was fire-bombed during the protests.
“At night, people are no longer enjoying their freedoms, they are dragged out of their places of joy and entertainment, restaurants… (and) being beaten up,” he said.
At least 12 people have been killed and hundreds wounded — 78 of them with gunshot wounds — during the crackdown over the past two weeks.
Chamisa said his party had recorded 844 cases of human rights violations.
– ‘Systematic torture’ –
Nationwide demonstrations erupted after Mnangagwa announced on January 12 that fuel prices were being more than doubled in a country suffering spiralling inflation and regular shortages of necessities.
Security forces instigated a crackdown to crush the protests in a move condemned by human rights groups who accused security forces of employing “systematic torture”.
Chamisa, 40, said he had written to regional body the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to intervene, but had not yet received a response.
“I don’t know how many bodies are supposed to be killed, I don’t know how much blood is supposed to flow on the streets of Harare before the SADC does something,” he said.
“I don’t know how many women are supposed to be raped before we begin to see the intervention of our regional bodies.”
Chamisa, who narrowly lost to Mnangagwa in a disputed presidential election last July, blamed his rival for the wave of chaotic protests.
“The person we hold responsible is none other than Mr. Mnangagwa who announced a 150 percent increase in fuel prices without any due notice, without any justification. He is the one who instigated the citizens’ response,” he said.
Mnangagwa on Monday said he was “appalled” by a televised report showing security forces repeatedly beating a detained civilian, and ordered the arrest of those responsible.