Two senior officials of Zimbabwe's ruling party have issued a warning that a campaign of civil disobedience and other form of nonviolent protest envisioned by the opposition faction which Morgan Tsvangirai leads could result in bloodshed and "war."
Spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and ZANU-PF Political Commissar Elliot Manyika put out a joint statement saying that their ruling party "alone has the grueling experience of war and strongly urges the armchair talkers to shut up," the state-controlled Herald newspaper reported. "War is not like a picnic or a dinner party, it is blood, sweat, injuries and death."
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena, meanwhile, told state radio that “all those who operate outside the limits of the law will be arrested.“
Tsvangirai, founding president of the Movement for Democratic Change but since late last year faced with a leadership challenge from a rival faction, pledged at the closing of his own faction's congress Sunday to launch a new campaign of civil disobedience and other nonviolent protest intended to unseat President Robert Mugabe.
State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa quickly issued his own warning that protests would be dealt with harshly, to which Tsvangirai responded by declaring that he would not be intimidated, promising a "paradigm shift" in opposition strategies.
"That paradigm shift involves the issue of building a democratic people's resistance movement and other options available democratically and that elections are not just exclusive to the achievement of that objective," Tsvangirai told reporters Tuesday.
His call for an anti-Mugabe rebellion was endorsed Wednesday by civil society groups including the National Constitutional Assembly, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, the Women Coalition, the Bulawayo Agenda, and others, according to the Internet-based news agency ZimOnline.
Mutare police briefly detained an official of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights at the conference on constitutional reform where the endorsement emerged. Sources said police detained Themba Ananias, finance officer of the rights group.
NCA lawyer Ernest Mudzengi, present at the Mutare conference, said the front tire of his car was tampered with, leaving him and some members of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights stranded in Rusape, on the road between Mutare and Harare.
Executive Director Arnold Tsunga of the Lawyers for Human Rights gave reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 more details on the conference.
One South African-based analyst argues, however, that such efforts by civil society to reform the country's basic document - which the ruling party has been amending more or less at will since claiming a two-thirds parliamentary majority in March 2005 - will be seriously hindered by the deep divisions within the political opposition.
Senior analyst Sydney Masamvu of the International Crisis Group's Southern African office in Pretoria, South Africa, tells reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele that it is essential that a new constitution be set in place before another major election takes place (the 2008 presidential elections are in prospect), and this will take a unified opposition.