Zimbabwe’s Army Commander Vows to Deal with Anti-government Protesters

Zimbabwe’s army commander Philip Valerio Sibanda said on August 5, 2016 that his soldiers will deal with anti-government activists who use social media to mobilize mass protests or post inflammatory messages. This is the first time the Zimbabwe military has openly commented on the recent ongoing demonstrations.

ZANU-PF 1st Secretary President Mugabe delivers his keynote address at the ongoing 15th Annual National People's Conference in Victoria Falls yesterday. - (Picture by Believe Nyakudjara)

Lieutenant-General Sibanda is the current Commander of theZimbabwe National Army. In an interview with The Herald, Zimbabwe’s leading daily newspaper and state-owned media, Lt-General Sibanda said that social media activism was cyber warfare that the army would deal with.

With unemployment above 80 per cent, dollar shortages worsening as commodity prices plummet and the country’s suffering of the worst drought in 25 years, there are a number of protests in recent months in Zimbabwe.

One of the largest anti-government protests was initiated on social media around July 2016, using hashtag #ThisFlag as symbol of the movement.

“As an army, at our institutions of training, we are already training our officers to be able to deal with this new threat we call cyber warfare where weapons – not necessarily guns but basically information and communication technology – are being used to mobilize people to do the wrong things,” Lt-General Sibanda said, adding that the army will be “equal to the task when the time comes”.

“The major task we are undertaking now is that of training and preparing the army for whatever eventuality.”

Despite the warning from the military, activists continue to push forward their and offline protests. On August 6, 2016, hundreds of protestors were mobilized to wave Zimbabwe’s national flag and sang the national anthem during a cricket match against New Zealand, in a sign of mounting opposition to President Robert Mugabe.

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Reina Ho

Reina Ho is a freelance reporter who focuses on censorship and information control in online space.

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