A crackdown on opponents of President Robert Mugabe seems likely to intensify in the aftermath of his ZANU-PF party's annual conference during which hardliners pushed through a resolution to target perceived critics ahead of expected 2012 elections.
In a report by the party's central committee at the just-ended conference, Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, ZANU-PF's legal affairs secretary, said the party must target the media, Facebook users, civic groups and human rights activists.
Mnangangwa said those groups were spreading “hate messages” and urged ZANU-PF to block offensive material coming from such sources.
ZANU-PF insiders said the party might ask China for technology to monitor critics and filter the internet.
Party spokesman Rugare Gumbo, however, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that his party will take steps to counter critics but will not step up surveillance of them.
Information and Communications Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa of the co-governing Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said Harare won't be buying Chinese spy technology.
Commenting on Mnangagwa's report, human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said targeting government critics shows that ZANU-PF is desperate.
Many Zimbabweans are wary of a repeat of the 2008 election which saw extensive and often deadly political violence and a stalemate that eventually led to the formation of the power-sharing government.