Zimbabweans have vowed to come out and march in the capital Harare on 3 August in defiance of the regime that extended its crackdown on the once-loyal veterans association by arresting several senior war veterans accused of undermining President Robert Mugabe.
After almost four decades of quelled frustrations under President Robert Mugabe's iron-fisted rule, Zimbabweans seem to have found the determination to confront their government.
Since May 2016, a flurry of citizen or civil activism movements have been rising and spreading, and are calling for much yearned for social, political and economic change − areas where they believe standard opposition politics have not delivered as hoped.
#ThisGown 3 August march
Several of these campaigns have come out in support of the Zimbabwe Coalition for Unemployed Graduates who plan to march in Harare against what they describe as the "government's failure to deliver the promised 2 million jobs".
Other campaigns, such as #ThisFlag, have endorsed the march, dubbed #ThisGown, in reference to the academic garments worn at graduation ceremonies.
In a post on #ThisGown's facebook account, organisers vowed to carry on with the planned march despite saying that the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) had tried to "discourage" them from holding it in a letter sent to them on 25 July.
"We are going on with our march tomorrow, as provided for by Section 59 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe," the post read.
Several senior war veterans arrested
In a landmark move on 21 July, the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), which has supported the long-serving leader since he came to power in 1980 and was known for responding violently to those who oppose his government, released a statement explaining why it was withdrawing its backing for him. The association, which blames Mugabe for the poor economy, said its members would not longer support the president in elections in 2018.
Following the move, the ZNLWVA spokesman, Douglas Mahiya, was arrested on 28 July for criticising the leadership and calling on Mugabe to step down after it described the leader as a "genocidal dictator" in the statement.
Charged with insulting Mugabe, Mahiya was finally released on $300 bail by the Harare Magistrate Courts on 1 August after a hearing attended by prominent figures, including former vice-president and current leader of the opposition party Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) Joice Mujuru and South African human rights lawyer and late Nelson Mandela's longtime friend, George Bizos.
Police arrested ZNLWVA secretary general Victor Matemadanda, who also attended the court hearing of his colleague.
His lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, said Matemadanda is accused of "undermining Mugabe", and faces the charge of of insulting the head of state. The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, meanwhile, reported the association's political commissioner, Francis Nhando, was also arrested outside the magistrates court on similar charges to his colleague.
The arrests come after 92-year-old Mugabe on 27 July publicly vowed that he would hunt down and punish "severely" the war veterans who published the statement.
Magaisa: 'Arrests only making things worse for Mugabe'
Zimbabwean lawyer Alex Magaisa, a former adviser to ex-prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, told IBTimes UK the wave of arrests "is naturally a response to the crisis that the Zimbabwean government is facing at the moment". According to Magaisa, the recent protests and veterans' revolt have "caused panic in the regime" whose "repression is its typical response".
"But these arrests are only making things worse for Mugabe because their effect is to galvanise his opponents who are now standing in solidarity against a common enemy. There will be more arrests but that will not stifle the spirit of the people," Magaisa said.
Following Mahiya's court hearing, lawyer Bizos warned about the possibility of a civil war in Zimbabwe, on the back of the ZNLWVA' s withdrawal of support and the deteriorating economy that forced US President Barack Obama to award an extra $40 million in aid to the south African nation on 30 July.