Chamisa worried about opposition clampdown after rally blast

Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Nelson Chamisa gestures during the launch of his party's election manifesto in Harare, Zimbabwe, June 7, 2018. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
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HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader on Wednesday said he feared the government would use a blast that hit a weekend rally by President Emmerson Mnangagwa as an excuse to clamp down on opponents ahead of a July 30 vote.

Mnangagwa is the election favourite and a spokesman for his ruling ZANU-PF party, Simon Moyo, said the government was not planning any clampdown.

Nelson Chamisa, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which has formed a poll alliance with smaller parties, said Mnangagwa was leading an unstable government without capacity to resolve Zimbabwe’s problems, including the economy.

“We know that they would also want to use that as a pretext to clamp down on the opposition, they would want to use it to start targeting certain individuals, certain candidates that they perceive to be their credible opposition,” Chamisa, 40, told Reuters in an interview.

Mnangagwa, 75, blamed a ZANU0-PF faction loyal to former leader Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace for the attempt on his life in Bulawayo city and has said the government is taking steps to ensure peace endures. Two people died and dozens were injured in the explosion. [nL8N1TT1CT]

The presidential and parliamentary vote is the first since Mugabe was forced to resign in November after a coup. It is seen as a contest between generations.

Chamisa said he was confident he would form the next government, which would include ZANU-PF elements, but complained the electoral field was tilted in Mnangagwa’s favour.

He said the MDC was worried about “ghost voters” on the poll register and was also concerned over which firm would be granted the contract to print the ballots.

He said the army should publicly declare it would respect the result even if Mnangagwa lost.

The military remains averse to any leader who was not part of the liberation war against white rule, analysts say.


While Zimbabwe lacks a reliable polling system, an unofficial survey released early this month in Bulawayo by the Mass Public Opinion Institute put Mnangagwa’s popularity on 42 percent against Chamisa’s 31 percent. The survey showed that a large group, 25 percent, declined to disclose a preference. The institute will publish another survey just before the vote.

Chamisa, whose party has promised to revive the economy, said his government would review all investment deals signed by the government to ensure Zimbabwe did not lose out.

Platinum and coal deals are among those that would be scrutinised, Chamisa said, adding he would seek better trade terms with China, a big investor in the country.

Zimbabwe signed a $4.2 billion platinum deal with a Cypriot investor Karo Resources in March and is developing a $3 billion platinum joint venture with Russian partners. [nL8N1R4258]

“We need to investigate to see what was involved,” Chamisa said, referring to the coal and platinum deals.

He said he was not afraid to antagonise powerful forces.

“I am not worried about the anger of dealers. We do not want dealers in Zimbabwe, we want investors,” he said, arguing that some of the investors were mere dealmakers.