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Zimbabwe – Mujuru and Tsvangirai form alliance to fight Mugabe

NehandaRadio

Tsvangirai, Mujuru finally seal poll pact

By Fungi Kwaramba

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and former Vice President Joice Mujuru yesterday fired warning shots at President Robert Mugabe and his warring ruling Zanu PF — signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Harare ahead of the finalisation of the planned grand coalition as the make-or-break 2018 elections approach.

Tsvangirai and Mujuru form alliance to challenge Mugabe
Tsvangirai and Mujuru form alliance to challenge Mugabe

This comes as the mindless bloodletting that is devouring Zanu PF has escalated in the past few weeks, resulting even in the party’s national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, coming under serious pressure to resign from his post over a slew of charges — including bizarre claims of plotting to oust Mugabe from power.

Describing yesterday’s developments as historic, a buoyant Tsvangirai said the two opposition leading lights had decided to join hands after realising that Mugabe and Zanu PF had “no clue” about how to end the myriad challenges afflicting Zimbabwe.

“We have chosen to give hope to the people of Zimbabwe … that indeed there is a bright light at the end of this very dark tunnel.

“We have taken the first step to bring all Zimbabweans under one roof so that we can work together to remove the unmitigated repression and misgovernance that pervades our lives.

“I am pleased to inform the nation that today we have signed a memorandum with Mai Mujuru of the National People’s Party (NPP) … to establish a pre-election alliance en route to the establishment of a coalition government which shall drive a comprehensive democratisation and transformation agenda.

“This is just the beginning of the building blocks towards establishing a broad alliance to confront Zanu PF between now and 2018,” Tsvangirai said.

The indefatigable former labour union leader emphasised that the door had not been slammed on other smaller parties being part of the pact, with “similar arrangements” to be decided with them soon.

“While political parties have their role in nation-building, it must be understood that they are not the only key stakeholders.

“We are in this together with other key stakeholders such as traditional leaders, the Church, labour, vendors, war veterans, civic society, business and the generality of Zimbabweans.

“This is our collective struggle and I call upon the people of Zimbabwe to join hands with us and play their part as well so that we can reclaim our country, our freedom and our dignity,” Tsvangirai added.

“Even at the ripe old age of 93, president Mugabe knows that the country’s crisis is unsustainable. Every Zimbabwean from every station of life knows it too.

“So, we should all stand together in unison and say enough is enough. As president Mugabe enters the sunset of his life, it is incumbent upon all of us to pick the pieces and rebuild our country together.

“I hope the understanding we reached today, and which we will reach with many others, will culminate in a solid political co-operation agreement that should usher in a new governance culture in our country,” he said further.

On her part, Mujuru promised “greater things” for long-suffering Zimbabweans.

“We were being asked by people wherever we would go about when we would form the coalition. It took about six months to discuss the coalition.

“We know your expectations are very high … what we want to see is a greater Zimbabwe again … We are going to deliver a new Zimbabwe,” she said.

According to the two opposition leaders, the MoU would act as a roadmap towards forming the planned grand coalition which is expected to be in place before next year’s eagerly-anticipated national elections.

Optimism has been high ever since Tsvangirai and Mujuru publicly flaunted their readiness to join forces against the ruling party, when they appeared together in Gweru last August.

In a move that political analysts described as “very significant”, Mujuru held hands and also joined Tsvangirai then during a massive demonstration in Gweru that was organised by the former prime minister in the government of national unity’s MDC.

Analysts have also repeatedly said Mujuru, whose liberation struggle nom de guerre was Teurai Ropa (Spill Blood), and whose husband Solomon was the first black post-independence army commander, could provide the much-needed bridge that opposition parties have been missing to ensure the smooth transfer of power if they win elections again.

However, they have also warned that without a broad coalition involving all the major opposition players, Zanu PF would use “its usual thuggish and foul methods” to retain power in 2018.

In 2008, her late husband Rex was accused by Mugabe and other Zanu PF bigwigs of having engineered the 93-year-old’s stunning electoral defeat to Tsvangirai in that year’s hotly disputed polls.

Last week, a bullish Tsvangirai vowed to finish off Mugabe and his deeply-divided Zanu PF — adding that he stood ready to lead the planned grand coalition.

Speaking in an interview with the Daily News then, Tsvangirai said he had “no doubt whatsoever” that the MDC — working together with other opposition parties — would, like it did in 2008, once again defeat Zanu PF in 2018 and bring to an end Mugabe’s long but tumultuous rule.

“I stand ready to heed the calls by Zimbabweans that I lead … Indeed, when I moved across the country, the people said I should lead.

“So, if that is what people want, then I am ready to lead the coalition. But this should not be about individuals but about Zimbabwe.

“Indeed, the fight for democracy in Zimbabwe is not between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, but between long-suffering Zimbabweans and a heartless, looting Zanu PF,” Tsvangirai said.

“The commitment towards forming a grand coalition is there … But we must exercise due diligence in regard to our partners.

“Imagine at the end, just before elections you have people who will say ‘I was not part of the talks’ … so due diligence is very important,” added the dogged former labour union leader, as he explained why it was taking long to conclude the mooted coalition talks.

Soon after, Mujuru signalled her readiness to join Tsvangirai in the planned electoral pact when she said the mooted grand opposition coalition was the only way of extricating the country from its economic problems.

“As NPP, we believe that what ought to be 37 years of independence has been turned into 37 years of slavery and misery to Zimbabweans.

“We believe we have capacity as Zimbabweans to extricate ourselves out of the social, economic and political mess we find ourselves in as a result of Zanu PF’s failed government.

“It is time that all progressive forces within the rank and file of opposition parties put their differences aside and face the failed Zanu PF government as a united front by every constitutional means necessary come 2018.

“Our people never went to war so that the destiny of our country can be turned into political dynasties.

“Zimbabweans deserve to be free and that freedom has to be exercised now. To that end, as NPP we urge all the progressive forces within the rank and file of the opposition parties of this country to go back to the basics of the revolutionary ideals of oneness.

“It is our belief as NPP that what divides us as opposition political parties is smaller than what binds us as a country. Our motto should therefore be united we stand, divided we fall,” she said.

BBC

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe addresses a rally to mark the country"s 37th independence anniversary in Harare, Zimbabwe, April 18, 2017.Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Robert Mugabe has said he is not losing sleep over the coalition

Two of Zimbabwe’s best known opposition figures have agreed to form an alliance against President Robert Mugabe.

Long-time Mugabe critic Morgan Tsvangirai and former Vice-President Joice Mujuru say they will work together in next year’s election.

However, it is not yet clear which of them will be the presidential candidate.

Mr Mugabe, 93, has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980 and has said he will seek re-election.

“This is just the beginning of the building blocks towards establishing a broad alliance to confront Zanu-PF between now and the next election,” Mr Tsvangirai told journalists.


Real test lies ahead: Shingai Nyoka, BBC News, Harare

Zimbabwe's main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai (L) and fomer Vice President Joice Mujuru(R) sign a Memorandum of Understanding to negotiate coalition ahead of 2018 general election in Harare April 19th 2017Image copyright AFP

The alliance is an important first step towards uniting a deeply divided opposition.

And if this alliance succeeds it will be the first time President Mugabe has faced a united opposition on this scale since coming into power in 1980.

At least a dozen parties are expected to be part of the coalition.

Former Vice-President Joice Mujuru who was fired from the ruling Zanu-PF party in 2014 was the first to sign a pact with Morgan Tsvangirai. She says it follows six months of consultations.

A Movement for Democratic Change splinter group has now also come on board.

Divisions among the opposition have been blamed for previous electoral losses.

For the first time, Mr Tsvangirai apologised for this and accepted responsibility for the mistakes made in the past. His party has split four ways since it was formed in 1999.

Ms Mujuru’s National People’s Party recently splintered after less than a year.

But the real test for the opposition lies ahead. The parties still need to hammer out the terms of this alliance. In particular who will lead the coalition.

President Mugabe is a formidable opponent. He has been accused of stealing elections and using violence to stay in power.


Mr Mugabe has previously said he would not be losing any sleep over the proposed coalition.

Mr Tsvangirai has run against Mr Mugabe several times since he helped found the Movement for Democratic Change.

Each time he has said he was denied victory because of violence and rigging – charges denied by Mr Mugabe and his allies.

He became prime minister in a tension-filled coalition government with Mr Mugabe from 2009 until 2013.

Ms Mujuru was vice-president to Mr Mugabe for 10 years until she was fired in 2014.

Former Zimbabwe VP’s party suffers defeat in first election

Reuters

A new party founded by Zimbabwe’s former vice president Joice Mujuru suffered a crushing defeat in its first ever election contest again President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF, showing the task she faces in her bid to challenge her ally-turned-adversary.

ZANU-PF retained the rural Bikita West parliamentary constituency in Saturday’s by-election after its candidate polled 13,156 votes against 2,453 votes for Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said on Sunday.

Mujuru, Mugabe’s deputy for 10 years, was seen as the most likely successor to the 92-year-old leader until she was purged from the ruling party in 2014 after charges she was plotting against Africa’s oldest leader. Mujuru denies the charges.

Mugabe has ruled the former British colony since independence in 1980. He turns 93 on Feb. 21 and has been confirmed as the ZANU-PF presidential candidate for the vote which is due in 2018.

Last year Mujuru formed her own political party to challenge Mugabe, raising hopes that a politician who had liberation war credentials and enjoyed the support of some military generals could successfully challenge Mugabe.

The poor showing in Bikita West, which was marked by high voter turnout, comes at a time Mujuru is negotiation with the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on a coalition pact to take on Mugabe in next year’s election.

The MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai did not contest Saturday’s vote in keeping with its decision to boycott all elections because it argues the election environment favours the ruling party.

ZANU-PF is the dominant party in parliament where it has 221 out of 270 seats in the lower house.

Mujuru could not be reached for comment on Sunday. Her spokesman Jealousy Mawarire said he could not immediately comment.

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Keith Weir)

Zimbabweans suffering in a broken economy as they wait for Mugabe to go

Zimbabwe Indepedent

Edgar Garwe sits repairing mobile phones behind the counter of his tumble-down stall, worrying about a scarcity of customers and how he’ll pay his two children’s school fees.

“We’re just waiting,” Garwe, 31, said in an interview in the town of Mvurwi, north of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, where he fixes three or four phones in a good week. “It’ll get better when he’s gone.”

“He” is Robert Mugabe, who’s led Zimbabwe since independence from the U.K. in 1980 and overseen an economic meltdown that’s left an estimated 95% of the workforce jobless and driven as many as three million people into exile. Even though the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, or Zanu-PF, insists Mugabe will be its presidential candidate in the next elections in 2018, there’s a growing belief that the 92-year-old’s rule is nearing its end.

As the Mugabe era enters its twilight, Zimbabwe is facing rising poverty and protests. A power struggle in the ruling party to succeed him pits one faction backing his wife Grace and another coalescing around Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former spy chief. At the same time, unrest is spreading over food shortages and a cash crunch that has delayed payment of salaries and prompted the central bank to introduce dollar-pegged bond notes that Zimbabweans immediately dubbed “zombie currency.”

Faction Fights

“Mugabe has been holding the various factions of Zanu together,” Aditi Lalbahadur, a researcher at the South African Institute for International Affairs, said by phone from Johannesburg. “I don’t think the question has been answered about who will take over. Until that is resolved, I doubt Mugabe is going to step down voluntarily. There is going to be some kind of shift, but nobody knows what that will be.”

While Mugabe and his aides say he is “fit as a fiddle,” he’s visibly frail and has traveled frequently to Singapore to undergo undisclosed medical treatment.

A former schoolteacher who was jailed for 11 years for fighting white minority rule, Mugabe was initially hailed for promoting racial reconciliation and improving health and education. Now he’s seen as a pariah by many Western nations, who accuse him of stealing elections, waging a violent crackdown against his opponents and ruining the economy by condoning the seizure of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to black subsistence farmers, slashing export income from tobacco and other crops in the process.

Opposition to Mugabe’s rule has been fueled by widespread poverty, joblessness, the collapse of basic services and an abusive police force. The worst drought in two decades has added to the gloom, with about four million people, more than a quarter of Zimbabwe’s population, in need of emergency food rations.

Brezhnev Zvouya, a 32-year-old resident of the town of Banket which lies about 96 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of the capital, points at a Zanu-PF slogan “Empower, Employ, IndigeniSe” on his tattered T-shirt. “Big, big lie,” he said. “No new jobs, and people with jobs have no guarantee of being paid. Zanu is rotten.”

Sleeping in Streets

Seven years after abandoning its own currency and using mainly the dollar to end hyperinflation that reached 500 billion percent, Zimbabwe is grappling with cash shortages that have stalled salary payments to civil servants, the military and employees of private companies. Lines of people waiting to make bank withdrawals snake around city blocks in Harare. Some sleep in the streets to ensure they’re served.

In a bid to address the cash crunch, the central bank started distributing $10 million worth of bond notes.

With many businesses refusing to accept the notes, protests erupted in Harare on Wednesday, and the police sealed off the city center and used water cannons to disperse the crowds.

“The introduction of bond notes won’t make any difference because you’re only allowed US$150 a week and many places won’t accept them as real money,” said Joel Matamba, a farmer from the tobacco-growing region of Mutepatepa in northern Zimbabwe, who pays his eight staff about $150 each a month. “It’ll take me eight weeks to pay each worker what I owe them for a month of work. There are no banks here; these people have to be paid in cash.”

Opposition Unites

The discontent is strengthening the appeal of opposition parties, which are considering uniting to contest the 2018 vote. Mugabe’s main adversaries are Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change and Zimbabwe People First, which is led by Joice Mujuru, who was vice president between 2004 and 2014 and was expelled from Zanu-PF two years ago after being sidelined in the succession race.

Mujuru, a veteran of Zimbabwe’s war for independence, has strong support in rural areas that have traditionally backed Mugabe, while Tsvangirai has overwhelming sympathy in urban centers.

“Mugabe’s decision to purge Mujuru and her allies was a critical blunder that brought to life the one party that could pose a real threat to the ruling party’s clutch on power,” Charles Laurie, head of country risk at Bath, England-based Verisk Maplecroft, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “Her personal knowledge of the Zanu-PF playbook means that for the first time the ruling party will face a political opponent that intimately understands its strategies.”

While the end of the Mugabe era can’t come too soon for Garwe, he expects the president to die in office or leave on his own terms.

“Life can’t improve while the old man is in State House, so the country’s waiting for him to go,” Garwe said. “No one can chase him out, no one has that power. When he’s gone, we can start repairing the damage.”’

Zimbabwe – Mugabe flies out as protests mount

Newsday

image

Mugabe flies out, leaves Zim in flames
August 27, 2016 in National, News
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe obstinately flew out of a burning Zimbabwe yesterday, oblivious to the bedlam around him to attend the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) which began in Nairobi, Kenya, yesterday.

BY RICHARD CHIDZA
While tempers flared in Harare and the situation threatened to explode into full-scale anarchy, for Mugabe it was business as usual.

Pro-democracy groups and opposition parties have in the past few months cranked up pressure against Mugabe’s increasingly authoritarian regime through protests.

But the 92-year-old Zanu PF leader has reacted with his fashionable brute force, bludgeoning activists to a pulp in the process.

While police engaged in running battles with protesters in the capital, Mugabe was posing for photographs with a group of students departing for studies in China.

Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba could neither deny nor confirm the Zanu PF leader had left for Nairobi.

“I am not going to answer whether he has gone. You should have come to State House where he gave a speech. I cannot paraphrase what the President said, but can only give a statement in anticipation of what he is going to say,” Charamba said. “On TICAD VI, you can write your story that the President went to Japan and you can background your story on that.”

Mugabe has become a frequent flyer in his old age and continues to blow millions of taxpayers’ money on foreign trips, some with little benefit to the economy.

Mugabe warns protestors there will be no Arab Spring in Zimbabwe

Reuters

Zimbabwean opposition supporters carry rocks during clashes with police in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 26,2016.REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
By MacDonald Dzirutwe | HARARE

President Robert Mugabe warned protesters on Friday there would be no “Arab Spring” in Zimbabwe after anti-government demonstrations descended it to some of the worst violence seen in the southern African nation for two decades.

Zimbabwean police fired tear gas and water cannon at opposition leaders and hundreds of demonstrators at a protest against Mugabe and the ruling ZANU-PF, before unrest swept across large parts of the capital Harare.

“They are thinking that what happened in the Arab Spring is going to happen in this country but we tell them that it is not going to happen here,” Mugabe told state television, referring to a series of uprisings that toppled leaders across the Arab world.

Mugabe accused Western countries, including the United States, of sponsoring the protests.

“They are fighting because of Americans,” said Mugabe.

Earlier, opposition head Morgan Tsvangirai and former vice president Joice Mujuru fled a rally in their cars while protesters ran for cover as police broke up the core of the demonstration. However, anti-Mugabe leaders warned that this would be the first of a series of protests.

Mugabe’s opponents have become emboldened by rising public anger and protests over an economic meltdown, cash shortages and high unemployment. Mugabe, 92, has led Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.

Clashes spread through the streets of the capital Harare as riot police fought running battles with protesters who hurled rocks at officers, set tyres ablaze and burned a popular market to the ground, in some of the worst unrest since food riots in 1998.

Didymus Mutasa, a senior official from Mujuru’s party and convener of Friday’s protest, vowed to repeat the demonstration a week from now and blamed police for the violence and disobeying a court order allowing the march to proceed.

“If that was intended to cow us from demonstrating, I want to say the opposite has been the case. We are going next Friday to do exactly the same as we have done today,” Mutasa told reporters.

Most businesses shut down early on Friday fearing looting by protesters. Mujuru said 50 people were injured and hospitalised.

“Mugabe’s rule must end now, that old man has failed us,” said one protester before throwing a rock at a taxi.

RIOT POLICE

More than a hundred police officers in riot gear, backed up by water cannons and armoured trucks, occupied the venue that opposition parties planned to use for their demonstration.

As opposition supporters arrived for the march, they were told by the police to leave. The officers then fired tear gas and water cannon when parts of the crowd refused to comply.

Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said the force was still assessing the day’s events. “We will let you know once we are done,” she said.

Officials from Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party were unavailable for comment.

“Demonstrating is the only solution left to force the dictator out of office,” said Tapfuma Make, an unemployed 24-year-old from Chitungwiza town, south of Harare.

Zimbabwe’s High Court earlier ruled that police should allow the protest to proceed between 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. (1000-1400 GMT) in what Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) called a “victory for democracy”.

“Today has been for me the worst day that I have lived in this country, where I have observed with my own eyes, the state breaking its own laws and the state starting violence by attacking people who were just gathered together,” Mutasa said.

Opposition parties leading the protests say the electoral agency is biased in favour of the ruling ZANU-PF and is run by security agents loyal to Mugabe, charges the commission denies.

The protesters want the next vote in 2018 to be supervised by international observers, including the United Nations. They are also calling for Mugabe to fire corrupt ministers, scrap plans to introduce local bank notes and end cash shortages.

The latest demonstrations come nearly two months after the biggest large scale ‘stay at home’ strike in Zimbabwe since 2007, inspired by social media movements such as #ThisFlag led by pastor Evan Mawarire.

Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo on Thursday called opposition leaders “foreign agents” using protests to cause chaos in order to justify international intervention.

(Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by James Macharia and Andrew Heavens)

Zimbabwe anti-Mugabe protest: Police fire tear gas

BBC

man holds sign for Robert Mugabe Rd that has been taken downREUTERS A street sign bearing the president’s name was taken down by protesters

Police in Zimbabwe have fired tear gas and water cannon at opposition supporters who had gathered for a protest march in the capital, Harare.

They have also beaten up people wearing red T-shirts, the colour of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party (MDC), a BBC reporter at the scene says.

Protesters are calling for electoral reform ahead of polls in 2018.

President Robert Mugabe, 92, says he intends to stand again.

Leaders from 18 opposition political parties have called for Zimbabweans to march through Harare today as part of a so-called “mega demonstration”.

The High Court ruled on Friday morning that the planned opposition march could go ahead, a day after police warned that unauthorised demonstrations would not be tolerated.

Police with batons clash with protester in red t shirtAP Police used batons to beat opposition protesters

Public protests, which used to be relatively rare in Zimbabwe, have proliferated in recent months, focusing on the dire state of the country’s economy.

Most of these have come under the banner of the #ThisFlag movement, inspired by charismatic pastor Evan Mawarire, who has urged non-violent protest over perceived corruption and economic mismanagement

The country’s economic crisis has worsened recently, leading to a chronic cash shortage and delays paying civil servants.

Zimbabwe – latest on Harare protests and police reaction

News24

As it happened: Zim’s anti-Mugabe protest

2016-08-26 17:30

Get the latest details as Zimbabwe opposition parties go ahead with the planned grand demonstration to press for the implementation of electoral reforms.

Zimbabwe protests

LIVE NEWS FEEDJump to
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Last Updated at 18:26
18:02

Opposition leaders say there will be another protest next week on Friday in Harare, according to social media reports 


17:48

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change meantime accused Mugabe’s government of “working very hard to provoke the law-abiding citizens of this country” after riot police attacked citizens planning to take part in what had been billed a “mega” march by a combined 18 opposition parties.

A court had ruled that the march could go ahead.”[Police] assaulted and rained teargas in the city centre and at the Freedom Square near the Harare magistrates’ court,” MDC spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka said in a statement.

Unrest is rising in Zimbabwe five months after a church pastor posted a video about his frustration with corruption and poverty and in so doing, launched the #ThisFlag protest movement.

Evan Mawarire has since left Zimbabwe but some of the protesters on Friday sported the national flag.

#ThisFlag organisers have consistently called for protesters not to be violent.

Opposition leaders have said they will reschedule the march for next Friday.


17:47

From News24’s correspondent 

Zimbabwe’s ageing president on Friday warned opposition supporters against trying to stage “an Arab spring” as he left the country for a conference in Kenya while police with tear gas and batons clamped down hard on protesters in Harare.

The state Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation said Mugabe, 92, accused the opposition of embarking on a “path of violence” but vowed an Arab Spring would not happen in Zimbabwe.

“[Mugabe] said the violent opposition groups engaging in violence should understand that they’re fighting for foreign forces that have left people suffering after removing democratically elected governments,” ZBC added.

The report said that Mugabe was destined for Kenya where he will attend the Tokyo Conference on African Development.


17:44

Tsvangirai: people’s anger and desperation is very deep. It mustn’t relent. I’m glad Zimbabweans are saying enough is enough – social media

14:59

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai on police brutality: 

14:55


14:39

Daily News reports that the leader of Zimbabwe People First (ZPF), former vice president of the southern African country is set to address a press conference shortly. 

14:36


14:34

Take a look at some of the pictures from today’s grand anti-Mugabe protest in Harare.  

14:08

Skirmishes continue between riot police and protesters in Harare city centre – social media reports 

14:06

Opposition set to hold a press conference at 15:00 – social media reports

13:54


13:53


13:50

From News24’s Correspondent in Harare:

It was the image of one small dead dog that summed up both the rage and heartbreak in Zimbabwe as anti-government protesters tried to hold a “mega” march on Friday.

As helicopters hovered overhead at midday and riot police tried to force opposition supporters to disperse, someone tore down the road sign for Robert Mugabe Road and photographed it lying on the tarmac next to the body of a small white dog.There was little doubting the symbolism of the picture.

“No road through for a dead dog,” crowed one Twitter user, referring of course to the longtime Zimbabwe leader who, though aged and increasingly frail, shows no sign of wanting to step down.

“A group essentially saying Mugabe is a dead dog,” explained @ConcernedZimCitizen.But had the animal been killed by protesters, as the official Herald immediately suggested?Tweeted the newspaper, which is fiercely loyal to the 92-year-old president: “Hoodlums contravening the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act as they demonstrate downtown.”

Prominent publisher @TrevorNcube thought they hadn’t, no doubt echoing the hopes of many animal-lovers in this southern African country.

Some Mugabe watchers claim that the 92-year-old president appeared at the Harare Agricultural Show on Thursday incongruously sporting soft indoor shoes in a possible sign of infirmity.

The claim has not been independently verified.Police have used teargas to try to stop protesters gathering for Friday’s march to press for electoral reforms. The High Court said it should go ahead at midday.

But home affairs minister Ignatius Chombo threatened would-be protesters in a televised statement on Thursday night, and there are mounting fears of violence.

Prominent activists Stern Zworwadza and Promise Mkwananzi were picked up by police on Friday, according to rights group Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition.