Tension is rising in Zimbabwe amid reports that the army has been put on high alert to deal with protests against President Robert Mugabe’s government that are set to increase.
Local media reports on Friday indicated that the Joint Operations Command (JOC) that brings together the army, police and intelligence and closely works with Zanu PF had agreed that the military must be on standby in case the protests get out of hand.
Protesters on Thursday announced that they would be marching to State House on Saturday, giving Mugabe until end of August to leave, and service chiefs are rattled that the demonstrations might push the 92 year old president out of power.
The health ministry has already pleaded with Constantine Chiwenga, the defence forces’ commander, to provide supplementary doctors, nurses and laboratory technicians in the wake of a crippling stayaway by civil servants this week.
Home Affairs minister, Ignatius Chombo, reportedly ordered the police to descend heavily on citizen activists who are calling for Mugabe and his cabinet to resign over a worsening economic crisis, corruption and human rights abuses.
Hundreds of the activists have been arrested while police used tear smoke and dogs to quell the swelling protests.
Mugabe is said to have met with the heads of the army, intelligence, police and prisons on Monday where he ordered them to closely monitor the protests and secret service agents are out in full force across the country.
Mostly young citizens have violently demonstrated in the border town of Beitbridge, Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Masvingo, Gweru and other places over unpopular government policies that include a ban on some imported goods, police roadblocks and rampant public sector corruption.