Government has tightened security in Masvingo ahead of President Robert Mugabe’s 92nd birthday bash set for tomorrow with hundreds of Zanu PF youths from various provinces already in the city for the event.
The security forces were on high alert to avert disruptions by rival Zanu PF factions amid threats of demonstrations by MDC-T supporters and youths from Temba Mliswa’s Youth Advocacy for Reform and Democracy (YARD).
Mugabe’s birthday celebrations would be held at an open space adjacent to the Great Zimbabwe Monuments, meaning entry into the world heritage site could be closed for two days to the detriment of the country’s tourism sector.
Anti-riot police have kept a heavy presence in the city centre and high-density suburbs after they were caught flat-footed by MDC-T youths who held a brief demonstration on Tuesday, protesting the holding of the festivities at a time millions of Zimbabweans were in need of food aid.
Mliswa’s YARD also threatened similar demonstrations today.
“There is going to be blood on the floor if the demonstrators go ahead because they will be ruthlessly crushed. For now, the focus is on Masvingo and the security forces have been flooded in the city to contain the planned demonstrations,” a source said.
Several Zanu PF youths were also bussed into the town ostensibly to crush the planned protests by the MDC-T youths.
So tense was the situation that people gathered in groups were being interrogated by the police on suspicion that they were planning street protests.
However, YARD Masvingo provincial coordinator Munyaradzi Rushwaya vowed to go ahead with their planned protests despite the heavy police presence.
“I have received numeral phone calls from unknown numbers threatening me with death if we go ahead with the demo. They said they would adopt a shoot-to-kill policy if we dare get into the streets. But we remain defiant and we will go ahead with our protest march. We will die pushing the cause of the youths,” he said.
Opposition parties have accused Zanu PF of being insensitive by going ahead with the $800 000 bash at a time over three million Zimbabweans were in dire need of food aid following a poor summer cropping season this year.-AMH