Johannesburg — The Zimbabwean government has threatened to crack down on any public demonstration after the 31 March legislative elections.
The government was responding to calls for peaceful 'Ukraine-style' protests to oust the ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe should it win the keenly-contested elections on Thursday.
Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, and Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), alleged over the weekend that the elections had already been rigged and called on people not to accept another "stolen" ZANU-PF victory.
Ncube repeated allegations that opposition supporters were being denied food aid, while Tsvangirai, addressing voters on Sunday, called on MDC supporters countrywide not to accept a ZANU-PF victory.
ZANU-PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira dismissed Ncube as a liar and said government would publish its latest food aid distribution reports to prove that food was, indeed, reaching everyone, regardless of political affiliation.
Home affairs minister Kembo Mohadi said any demonstrations against the elected leadership would be a violation of the country's democratic principles, and the government had a responsibility to ensure law and order in the pre- and post-election periods.
"We have a duty to ensure there is peace and order in the country. The security forces will not stand by and watch people subverting our national democratic processes to get a short cut to regime change - anyone who plans to engage in such acts should know that it is not only illegal but unacceptable," Mohadi told IRIN.
He said Zimbabweans had worked hard to achieve democracy, and "allowing it to be hijacked and abused by malcontents would be a self-inflicted injury on the part of government".
"People who want political office in this country have to run for it. We cannot allow the will of the people, shown through democratic elections, to be subverted by malcontents and Western agents of regime change," Mohadi emphasised.
He declined to comment on whether Ncube and Tsvangirai would face arrest for making the call for peaceful demonstrations.
Tsvangirai still faces a charge of treason for calling for a "final push" demonstration to oust the Mugabe regime in June 2002.
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]