Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, angered by President Robert Mugabe’s shocking threats and vitriolic attacks on him and the MDC on Friday, has bluntly told the increasingly frail nonagenarian to prepare for the end of his time in high office.
Speaking to the Daily News in an exclusive interview at the weekend, the former prime minister in the government of national unity also warned Mugabe not to behave as if he was “immortal” — adding that not even the arrest and killing of dissenters would rescue the nonagenarian and Zanu PF from the wrath of long-suffering Zimbabweans.
“We have all seen the worst of Mugabe and Zanu PF over the years, and if there is one man who has witnessed this first hand it is me. I have been beaten, thrown into jail on trumped-up charges and have been tried for treason. My wife also died in unclear circumstances.
“I have quietly tried to put up with Mugabe’s hurtful bragging about beating and harassing me all these years, but it is enough now. We have always known that we are up against a dictator whose only preoccupation is the retention of power by any means necessary.
“Zimbabweans know that Mugabe will resort to violence when challenged peacefully and democratically. Let me warn him that he can continue to beat us, or even kill us and do all sorts of things, as is his natural tendency, but what is inevitable is that he is not immortal,” the usually unflappable Tsvangirai said.
The former trade union leader, who defeated Mugabe hands down in the hotly-disputed 2008 elections, also narrated “the countless times” that Mugabe and Zanu PF had attempted to “destroy me politically and otherwise”, to no avail — including arraigning him on trumped up treason charges which were eventually thrown out by the courts.
He also recounted how on March 11, 2007, he had been arrested “for no reason at all” and left for dead after he was bludgeoned mercilessly by police while in custody, when authorities crushed a prayer meeting that had been organised in the Harare high density suburb of Highfield.
A well-known cobbler and MDC activist, Gift Tandare, was murdered in cold blood during the sickening assaults, which all later culminated in the subsequent intervention by Sadc.
Mugabe — the only leader Zimbabweans have known since the country gained its independence from Britain in April 1980 — on Friday ominously promised to crush and jail all dissenters, including leaders of political parties coalescing under the banner of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera).
The warning came in the wake of a High Court ruling which quashed a recent police ban on protests in the capital, with Mugabe telling the Zanu PF central committee that the MDC and pro-democracy groups were playing “a dangerous game” by agitating for reforms and change in the country.
“The MDC has apparently now adopted a policy of violence … we warn them that they are playing a dangerous game, a very dangerous game.
“They are bragging that they want to take their violent demonstrations to rural areas but again I say let them be warned that when we move against them they should not cry foul saying there is no more democracy in the country.
Some of them (opposition leaders) have never been held in cells eating very little food in a filthy place before they are even tried in court. If they have ears to hear, let them hear.
“Let the opposition parties and all those angling for chaos and mayhem be warned that our patience has run out. Government will take very strong measures against any political party, organisation or individuals who perpetrate violent demonstrations,” Mugabe said.
But Tsvangirai told the Daily News that Mugabe’s threats betrayed the “obvious fact that the man is panicking and running out of options”.
“The jails are now not for criminals but for us … I know his recent outburst where he said that I was organising people against him is a result of his anger at being rejected by the people of Zimbabwe since we defeated him in 2008. There is no doubt that we have shaken Zanu PF’s hegemony since we were formed.
“And the fact is that the people are organising themselves against him and Zanu PF.
“They want change, not only with regards to Mugabe, but the whole system that has led us to the pits where we are today. They want a new leadership that is able to define a new vision and promising future for the country,” he thundered.
“There is also no doubt that there is a new national convergence by Zimbabweans of all persuasions, including war veterans, workers, students, vendors and so on — on the need to democratise our country and create local and international confidence.
“Mugabe will be foolish to dismiss this as a far-fetched dream … and we will not resort to overthrowing him illegally to achieve change and democracy in the country.
“But I can promise him that we will not stop demanding what rightfully belongs to the people,” the emotionally-charged Tsvangirai added.
Since the country’s economy began experiencing serious turbulence, including witnessing banks running out of cash, Mugabe’s government has come under growing pressure as angry ordinary Zimbabweans have mounted seemingly unending demonstrations.
This coming weekend, 18 political parties will hold rolling protests in 210 constituencies around the country, despite Mugabe’s threats.
Two weeks ago, heavily-armed police ruthlessly crushed another Nera demo before they invoked a controversial ban which was later ruled unconstitutional by the High Court.
Mugabe has also recently made threats against the judiciary, in an ill-advised rant which was widely seen as trying to sway the Bench to his side in light of the growing protests against Zanu PF’s misrule of the past 36 years