Zimbabwe opposition upbeat about polls despite crackdown





HARARE (AFP) – Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader is upbeat about victory in next year’s elections, despite a crackdown that he compares to being in “the jaws of a crocodile.”

Nelson Chamisa told AFP that President Hakainde Hichilema’s victory in neighbouring Zambia had brought hope for Zimbabwe, which has been ruled by one party for nearly 42 years.

A veteran opposition leader, Hichilema won elections in August on his sixth attempt.

The breakthrough proved that “nothing is impossible,” Chamisa said in an interview in Johannesburg late Wednesday.

“Zambia has given a huge momentum which is also going to spill over across the Zambezi,” the river that it shares with Zimbabwe, he predicted.

Chamisa narrowly lost the 2018 general elections to Emmerson Mnangagwa, in what he says was a stolen vote.

But he said he was confident of winning next year’s presidential ballot.

“Zambia did it. Malawi did it. Why can’t we do it?”

He said his party was under constant attack from the ruling ZANU-PF “because they know that we defeated them in 2018 and we are about to repeat that.”

“So they have tried to decimate us, to destroy us, to divide with violence,” he said.

“Literally and metaphorically, we are in the jaws of a crocodile.”

Zimbabwe’s president is nicknamed “The Crocodile” — an epithet that can be traced back to his ferocious “Crocodile Gang” guerrilla unit during the struggle for independence from Britain.

Chamisa this week announced a new name for his party, now called the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC).

Previously, the party had been known as the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), a storied name that was two decades old. But it had become embroiled in factional squabbles and legal disputes.

Chamisa insisted the change was not a rebranding but the creation of an entirely new party.

“We are closing the chapter of toxicity, negativity and fights over nothing. Our fight… is about a better life for Zimbabweans,” he said.

“Look at what is happening to Zimbabweans in the region, being embarrassed and harassed in South Africa, in Botswana, in Zambia. This should stop!” he said.

“We need to fix Zimbabwe in order to restore the dignity of the citizens, and that is what we are doing.”

The Zimbabwean embassy in South Africa this week issued a statement saying its citizens were being threatened to leave the country.

The embassy said it had received reports of “disturbing” incidents and threats of “forced eviction.”

South Africa last year said it would not renew temporary permits of around 250,000 Zimbabweans who fled political and economic crises at home.