PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is reportedly plotting a bloody 2018 election campaign, with Zanu PF youth militia acting as his storm troopers ahead of the polls, NewsDay has learnt.
Political analysts and opposition leaders yesterday said Mugabe’s recent order blocking the planned retrenchment of more 2 000 National Youth Service graduates, known as Border Gezi or Green Bombers, confirmed his sinister scheme to launch a bloody campaign against opposition activists in the run-up to the elections.
Mugabe, two weeks ago, ordered the reinstatement of the youth officers, accusing Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa and Public Service minister Prisca Mupfumira of unilaterally firing them without consulting him.
“Our economy is recovering. Is that the time we should be dismissing our youth? How can they say we have no money now? Please reinstate those youth. We never, never agreed to that.
“The issue of firing those youth was never agreed. Where is the Ministry of Finance and Labour? Please, stop it,” Mugabe told cheering Zanu PF supporters at a campaign rally in Chinhoyi.
This prompted Mupfumira to issue a statement on Monday freezing the planned government job cuts.
“These youth had not yet been served with letters to terminate their contracts. So, after the President spoke, we made a decision to freeze the programme. It was part of a government staff rationalisation programme. We have been told to stop it. We have complied and now wait for a clear direction,” Mupfumira said.
Former Finance minister and opposition People’s Democratic Party leader Tendai Biti yesterday said Mugabe’s decision was driven by sinister motives.
“Those youth are a Zanu PF private army that is being kept well-oiled and well-fed to be used in the general elections next year. There is also the prospect that Mugabe wants to use this notorious militia in the possible bloody resolution of the Zanu PF succession,” Biti said.
“Mugabe also wants to use the militia in possible violence around the succession issue. Mugabe wants to counter that and the youth brigade will come in handy”.
MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu said Mugabe’s order to recall the youth officers proved that he was prepared to retain power at all costs.
“The notorious Green Bombers are Zanu PF’s storm troopers. They are agents of terror and thuggery, who have been specifically brainwashed to use brute force and terror to ensure that the Zanu PF regime retains power at whatever cost. This is the main reason why Mugabe has ordered that the government shouldn’t fire Green Bombers,” he said.
Political analyst, Eldred Masunungure chipped in, saying Mugabe had placed his political survival above the economy.
“These youth officers, or Green Bombers, are a vital psychological tool in elections even without resorting to overt violence. If they are to be laid off, they would become a laughing stock and source of derision for the party ahead of elections,” he said.
“However, this is a nightmare for people like Chinamasa, who are battling with the budget deficit and external debt.”
Economist, Ashok Chakravarthi said the issue of labour rationalisation had not been accorded the importance it deserved.
“This is an issue of national importance and the Tripartite Negotiating Forum, for me, is too low. We need this to be pushed into the Office of the President, where real decisions are made and concretised,” he said.
In the run-up to the 2013 general elections, Mugabe’s government reportedly went into overdrive recruiting “youth officers”, many of them graduates from the National Youth Service programme.
The youth have become infamous for violence, rape, murder and intimidation of opposition supporters in pre- and post-election periods in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe’s bloody poll plot ‘exposed’