In Zim, the dictator is gone, but repression machinery is alive, well

The June 23 explosion at a Zanu PF rally in Bulawayo that killed two people and injured dozens came as a shock to all Zimbabweans.

TENDAI BITI

This hideous attack was condemned by citizens across the political spectrum. This response shows our nation’s resilience, our yearning for peace and our common determination to restore democracy. Indeed, over the next few weeks, our beloved nation has a real opportunity to finally steer toward freedom and prosperity for all.

Our goals for restoring democracy nevertheless remain under threat by the remnants of dictatorship, their propagandists and enablers, both at home and abroad. Our upcoming election on July 30 cannot be a whitewash of democracy. The people of Zimbabwe know this, and we are counting on our friends in the international community to stand with us.

Our longtime ruler, Robert Mugabe, was forced out by a military coup in November 2017. But do not be fooled. The dictator may be gone, but his machinery of repression is alive and well. Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former understudy, is now President, having been ushered into power by the leaders of last year’s coup. The world has been introduced to him in a carefully managed publicity campaign, designed to project an image of reform. Some world leaders seem to believe the charade that a new dawn has somehow arrived in Zimbabwe. It has not.

Rather than offering reform, Mnangagwa heralds a return to Zimbabwe’s dark past. I speak from firsthand experience. Along with my colleagues in the opposition MDC Alliance — as well as brave activists in civil society, the media, trade unions and our vibrant religious community — we have been fighting for freedom and justice for three decades. For our efforts, we have been routinely targeted for State-sponsored intimidation, imprisonment and torture. I have personally received multiple death threats. I have witnessed friends and colleagues being beaten − including a brutal attack with iron bars on Nelson Chamisa, the MDC Alliance president and our dynamic presidential candidate. Yet, while the bodies of so many of our heroes have suffered and disappeared, their voices carry on and inspire us.

The current military junta has yet to reckon with its own violent past. Mnangagwa may speak abstractly of national healing when he’s abroad, but it can only begin when those responsible admit to their crimes and commit to a process of real accountability.

Between 1983 and 1987, Zimbabwe’s 5th Brigade − trained by North Korea − massacred tens of thousands of mainly Ndebele citizens. During the operation known as Gukurahundi, or “the rain that washes away the garbage,” Mnangagwa ran the intelligence services that co-ordinated the rampage. More than three decades later, not a single individual has been held to account.

The atrocities are part of a broader pattern of State-sponsored violence in Zimbabwe. In his later post as Housing minister, Mnangagwa spearheaded Operation Murambastvina (“clear out the filth”). Informal houses were bulldozed by the military, displacing nearly 600 000 people. By no coincidence, those most affected were largely the support base of the MDC.

Mugabe and his circle, including Mnangagwa, have also stolen our land and natural resources with brazen impunity. Mnangagwa was in charge of a reckless intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We still do not know how much this war cost in both blood and treasure. We do know that the ruling elite, including Mnangagwa, became immensely wealthy. When diamonds were discovered at Marange in the southeast of our country, the military and ruling party officials quickly moved to cash in. Mansions sprang up in the suburbs, and luxury cars began to congest our notoriously pot-holed streets. Despite clear evidence of theft, no one can account for an estimated $15 billion in lost revenue. Meanwhile, seven out of 10 of my fellow citizens remain in poverty, and an estimated 90% are still unemployed.

For those who believe the military junta will allow free and fair elections, look no further than the 2008 electoral defeat of Mugabe. The late MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai won at the polls, fairly and resoundingly, but Mugabe refused to leave power. At the urging of Mnangagwa and the military, Mugabe unleashed a vicious campaign of violence. In the months that followed, our supporters and activists suffered beatings, rapes, kidnappings, disappearances and arson attacks. Nearly 300 of our supporters were killed in cold blood. Many of these crimes have been laid at the feet of Mnangagwa, yet no one has ever been held accountable.


The elections scheduled for this July are again a chance for a better future.

In Zimbabwe, what’s past is prologue. Mnangagwa did not seize power in an unconstitutional coup and then, miraculously, become a reformer or a democrat overnight. His long record of abuse did not disappear, nor have his brutal tactics of repression. To our friends around the world: Do not be fooled by the propaganda and false promises being promoted by well-funded lobbyists in Western capitals. Mnangagwa remains who he always has been.

Despite the mounting danger, my colleagues and I in the MDC Alliance will continue raising the alarm while forging ahead with our positive reform agenda. We will continue to believe that Zimbabwe can have a brighter future, based on respect for human rights, the dignity of all people and the principles of freedom and justice. We will continue to stand with brave civil society activists who want both peace and accountability. Our beleaguered nation deserves no less.
Tendai Biti, a member of the opposition MDC Alliance, is a constitutional lawyer who served as Zimbabwe as Finance minister from 2009 to 2013.

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10 Comments

  1. Mnangagwa’s regime has not repealed various Acts of repression such as AIPPA, POSA,BAZ ETC that helped prop up the Mugabe regime.He has caused the permanent injury to Godfrey Majonga over a girlfriend. How cruel and callous of him. Please publish statements he made during Gukurahundi to unmask his cruelity.

  2. What really are you offering Mr Biti besides your usual vitriol and vile mouth?

  3. Zanu pf any provocation will face armageddon and apocalylic response this time….takudawo kumbofira nyika

  4. Why do people like Biti keep referring to the new takeover as a ” Coup”? They participated in the march along with everyone else, Mugabe resigned with an impeachment facing him, both from the Opposition and ZANU PF, why then, just because you were not included in an Inclusive Goverment that you were hoping for, are you now calling it a Coup? These crybabies!

    1. Gold Finger dont write as if you dont know your party is violent look bad 10 days ago in Bulwayo what happened VIOLEnce of the greatest order ma fire crackers and you still dont admit to this act of violence

  5. Biti is still stuck in the old testament whilst the rest are in the new testament. When others were busy marching in the streets against the oldman Mugabe it shows that you were busy looking through the window that wind of change. You must learn to focus ahead not stuck in the old environment. You are good at spitting dirty whenever and wherever you open your mouth

  6. fungai blessy mubobo

    the citizen participation was not to help the army to remove Mr Mugabe but it was their time to say to him go forever. remember the army was one of the oppressors machinery and its the citizen particularly the MDC who started to sing the Mugabe must go way back in 2000. A COUP is a coup the only difference is that ours was a soft coup. Did Mugabe willingly resigned, if no then why do you say its not a coup. Vote Munnangagwa into office and see how ruthless is he.

  7. Vana Chamisa ndimi maiimba muchiti if you dont want to go peacefully we are going to remove you violently to Mugabe we all march to remove Mugabe buy now Chamisa is going back to him again anakai manje. Nhamo inhamo zvayo i wont vote for Chamisa no direction

  8. Both Chamisa and Mnangagwa do not inspire confidence that they will deliver although Chamisa is the better of the 2. All Chamisa has been saying was attacking Mnangagwa and ZANU FY. He has said very little of his economic agenda. How will he improve the lives of the people .

  9. zvakaitika zvakatoitika lets soldier forward for new developement of the country, ED HAS MY VOTE

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