FILE - Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa addresses mourners at the burial of Zimbabwean minister Perence Shiri, who died of Covid-19, during his burial in Harare, July, 31, 2020.
FILE - Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa addresses mourners at the burial of Zimbabwean minister Perence Shiri, who died of Covid-19, during his burial in Harare, July, 31, 2020.

HARARE, ZIMABABWE - Zimbabwe's main opposition party is denying an accusation from a state security official that it is plotting a coup attempt.  State security minister Owen Ncube offered no evidence for his accusation, made Monday, and political analysts warn Zimbabwe has a history of using such allegations to crack down on opposition parties. 

Clifford Hlatywayo, spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change party (MDC Alliance), dismissed a claim from state security minister Owen Ncube that the party is smuggling guns into the country for a coup.

“MDC Alliance are archbishops of peace. ZANU-PF are the archbishops of violence," said Hlatywayo. "We are victims of violence, state sponsored and state engineered. What we know is the ballot and not the bullet. What we are being accused of is false, baseless. What they are trying to do is blame game. They do not want dissenting voices.”

Late Monday, Ncube said Zimbabwe’s security and stability was “under siege” from a number of threats being fomented by internal and external actors.

“The objective of this attack is to effect an unconstitutional change of government following the outcome of the 2018 harmonized elections, which was not favorable to the MDC-Alliance and its foreign backers," Ncube said. "As the state security arms of government, we would like to assure citizens that we are watching the environment very closely and that we shall fulfil our mandate of ensuring peace, stability and development in Zimbabwe.”

In his remarks, aired on state television, Ncube did not say which countries allegedly are working to topple the Zimbabwean government.

Prolific Mataruse is a senior political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe. He says he is not surprised by the security minister’s claims, given that some Western countries and activists have been complaining about a crackdown targeting activists.

"It is probably expected that as the country continues to experience economic challenges within the framework of COVID 19, underutilization of industrial capacity, liquidity challenges and other contested issues, we are likely to witness more of such statements or more ideas about external threats," Mataruse said. "It is almost a rule that as domestic policies face challenges – real or imagined – ideas about outside threats come to the fore.”

Under the 37-year rule of the late Robert Mugabe, the government would periodically accuse the opposition of plotting to topple the government.  The accusations would be followed by the arrest of opposition leaders on charges of treason.

In 2017, his successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, promised not to use the iron-fisted tactics of Mugabe.  

But activists have complained that Mnangagwa is not living up to his word.  In July, more than a dozen opposition activists went into hiding, fearing prosecution, after the government used force to break up an anti-government protest.