While Mugabe’s strategy is meant to cow critics ahead of elections, analysts contend that this was likely to backfire as it emboldens the people’s resolve to fight for their democratic rights.
Analysts believe Zimbabweans may feel encouraged by successful mass revolts that recently toppled dictatorial regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.
Even South African President Jacob Zuma, the facilitator in efforts to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis, warned Mugabe of “unprecedented upheavals” if pro-democracy reforms are not implemented in the country.
Instead of following Zuma’s advice, Mugabe has intensified his crackdown on MDC officials, church leaders and any other civil society activists perceived to be against his 31-year-old rule.
The MDC-T claims that over 100 senior party officials have been arrested in the past four months on trumped-up charges.
Some have been brought to court in leg-irons for holding unsanctioned meetings as if they were dangerous criminals.
Religious groups, believed to be critical of Mugabe’s rule, have not been spared in the onslaught.
Just two weeks ago, guns and baton-wielding police stormed a church in Harare and threw teargas canisters at frightened parishioners from different denominations who were praying for peace.
Parishioners, among them children, were forced to flee, some through windows, resulting in many sustaining cuts from broken glass.
So petty and paranoid has Mugabe’s handlers become that they see shadows almost everywhere.
Early this year, police arrested theatre actors, accusing them of “triggering political commotion” when they staged a play, Rituals.
They were charged with criminal nuisance.
Political analyst Charles Mangongera said Mugabe was pressing a self-destruct button by intensifying repression against an already agitated populace.
He said with civil servants angry over low salaries coupled with macro-economic problems fueling unemployment, Mugabe is sitting on an “political powder keg” that is bound to explode.
“The more people are pressed against the wall, the more they are determined to fight back,” he said.