The situation is calm but tense in Masvingo city where the ruling Zanu PF party is set to throw an $800,000 birthday party for President Mugabe on Saturday.
Some angry youths had promised to stage protests over the bash claiming that the president cannot be having a feast at Great Zimbabwe Monuments while the province and Zimbabwe in general is gripped by a devastating drought.
An independent non-profit making organization, Youth for Advocacy and Democracy (YARD), promised early this week to stage peaceful protests in Masvingo city to show their anger over the president’s lavish birthday party.
According to the principal organizer of the marches, Munyaradzi Rushwaya, YARD abandoned the protests after he received death threats from unknown people.
Rushwaya said the presence of armed police and plain clothes intelligence operatives in the city also forced them to chicken out in fear of being brutalized by the Zimbabwe Republic Police.
Rushwaya claimed that he is now in hiding and had to communicate with this reporter through WhatsApp. He said his life is now in danger after he had threatened to unleash youths in the city in an effort to block the birthday bash to be attended by more than 50,000 invited guests.
One of the YARD members, Tapfuma Gumbi, confirmed that his leader received threatening text messages on his mobile phone from suspected state security agents.
“At the moment we do not know what plan to do, we do not know where he is. In the morning he was receiving threatening messages ladened with death and abduction. So we seem to be shelving the demonstration, And also the other thing is that there is heavy police presence in the streets and they are not penetrable.”
Police were not available for comment. Some Zimbabweans say it is morally wrong for the president to hold a lavish birthday party in Masvingo, which is crippled by the current drought, while people cannot afford a decent meal a day. So-called well-wishers are paying for the birthday though indications are that local people were forced to part with at least $7 a part of their contribution towards the event.
A Masvingo resident, who declined to be named, said the heavy police presence in the city today made in impossible for anyone to hold a protest.
“It was almost impossible for anyone to hold a march under the circumstances given the heavy presence of the security details, the it was tight security and there were going to be thoroughly beaten or get killed if they had tried to go ahead with the protests.”
Despite heavy police presence, the city of Masvingo Friday was a hive of activity as Zanu PF supporters from Zimbabwe’s 10 province thronged the small city streets in preparation for President Mugabe’s birthday party.
Zanu PF top hawks’ top of the range vehicles and school buses from various learning institutions, including colleges and universities, are all over the city. Hotels are reportedly recording brisk business ahead of the big gig Saturday.
Masvingo Provincial Administrator, Felix Chikovo told journalists that at least 50,000 guests are expected to attend the bash.