By KENNETH NYANGANI/MOSES MATENGA
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday scoffed at suggestions that the winds of change sweeping across southern Africa, which led to the recent electoral defeat of Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu by the opposition’s Hakainde Hichilema would land in Zimbabwe and end his rule come 2023 plebiscite.
Addressing government officials and businesspeople at the official opening of an oxygen production plant in Mutare, Mnangagwa urged opposition leaders entertaining such a dream to “wake up from their slumber”.
“Let me tell you even before you ask me, if anyone dreams of what happened in Zambia happening in Zimbabwe, come back to your senses and brew some beer,” Mnangagwa told a cheering crowd.
His comments came a few days after opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa declared that he had “a sweet smell of victory in his nostrils” that he would win the 2023 presidential election, adding that Lungu’s defeat in Zambia signalled the demise of liberation movements in Africa.
Zanu PF, in power since independence in 1980, has won all past elections except in 2008 when its presidential candidate late former President Robert Mugabe lost the first round to late opposition MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai amid allegations of vote fraud.
In the July 30, 2018 polls, Mnangagwa narrowly won against Chamisa, although the youthful opposition leader still insists he was denied victory by ruling Zanu PF in connivance with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the military and Constitutional Court.
Mnangagwa also revealed that he personally contacted Lungu and persuaded him to concede defeat at a time when the outgoing Zambian leader was adamant that the polls were not free and fair.
His remarks that there is no Zambia repeat in Zimbabwe were interpreted by opposition leaders as confirmation that Zanu PF would use all means at its disposal to retain power.
MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere said there was no doubt that recent developments in Zambia had unsettled Mnangagwa.
“The illegitimate, oppressive, anti-people regime in Harare is clearly in panic mode following the victory for democracy in Zambia,” Mahere quipped.
“They know that defeat is coming for them in 2023. The good news for us is that power does not reside in Mr Mnangagwa, Mr (George) Charamba (presidential spokesman) or Mr (Simon) Khaya-Moyo (Zanu PF spokersperson) — all of whom have been at pains to minimise the impact of the victory in the region.”
Mahere added: “Power belongs to the people who will vote in their millions in 2023. We have set a target of six million votes to secure a people’s victory. Citizens are tired of dictatorship, poverty and corruption. We are confident that an overwhelming victory will be upon us as Zimbabweans form a broad alliance to win our nation for change. What happened in Zambia is exactly what will happen in Zimbabwe.”
But MDC-T leader Douglas Mwonzora’s spokesperson Lloyd Damba said his party was focused on its target to reach the 66% mark in the 2023 elections.
“Currently, we are focused on the induction of our shadow Cabinet, which must get to work as soon as possible so that they offer alternative policies in Parliament as we are working on the ground to garner 66% of the valid vote cast for the presidency in 2023,” Damba said.
Damba added: “Coming back to your question directly, how do you stop anybody from expressing their wish and freedom of speech?”
Mnangagwa was accompanied by senior government officials including Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri and Manicaland provincial affairs minister Nokhutula Matsikenyeri, Zanu PF provincial chairman Mike Madiro.
Yesterday, the commuting public which uses Zupco was left stranded as buses were reserved for Zanu PF supporters.
MDC Alliance Manicaland spokesperson David Panganai said Zanu PF only used COVID-19 as an excuse to avoid by-elections white it is gathering people.
“I am very concerned because Zanu PF bussed people using State resources. You see (it) is the same party that is hiding from by-elections. Come 2023, we are going to shock the party,” he said.
On the oxygen plant, Mnangagwa said the plant would go a long way in assisting COVID-19 patients.
“We were buying oxygen outside the country and it was very expensive and then COVID-19 came, and we sat down because we were aware that COVID-19 patients need oxygen,” he said.
“We gave our boys and girls some resources and after 18 months, they managed to come up with a plant to produce oxygen and now we are producing oxygen. Our boys and girls are very talented. What is needed is to give them the chance and resources so that they can do their research.”
Mnangagwa made the remarks while addressing scores of Zanu PF supporters at Mutare Aerodrome, oblivious of the level 4 COVID-19 regulations which ban huge gatherings.
Follow us on Twitter @NewsDayZimbabwe