THE bloody clashes that broke out in Harare yesterday, as soldiers and police used brute force to disperse unarmed disgruntled opposition activists protesting over alleged vote-rigging by the ruling Zanu PF party and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), have confirmed fears that Zimbabwe still has a long way to go before plucking itself out of pariah statehood.
The police and military’s vindictiveness at unarmed civilians exercising their democratic rights is a clear demonstration that all the mantra about a new era and new dispensation under President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government was just hot air meant to pull the wool over the international community’s eyes.
Yesterday’s incidents further confirmed that Zanu PF’s political intolerance is still strongly entrenched.
While the protestors may have jumped the gun and went into the streets before the announcement of the full results, there was no need for the government to use maximum force in containing the protests.
The police would have been well suited to deal with the situation, since the protests were peaceful.
The international observers that have been patting the government on the back for holding “a free, fair and credible election” have been left with egg on the face after Mnangagwa and his government unwittingly exposed their true colours.
And yesterday’s developments just served to confirm that the military has, indeed, always been the power behind Mnangagwa’s rule and even if he continues in power, his leadership is stained by the blood of innocent people whose lives were cut short before they could see the Zimbabwe they had been yearning for.
The international community that was keen to give Mnangagwa a fighting chance have now seen for themselves, for all his proclamations of peace and maturity, his government’s response to the protests, which in many ways was unjustified. Quite clearly, the military has failed to exercise the responsibility that places the safety of the people of Zimbabwe above all else. The electronic media was yesterday awash with pictures and footage showing a group of soldiers battering defenceless women going about their business in the Harare city centre.
It is strange that soldiers, who should keep to their barracks, were unleashed on defenceless civilians just after the President had called for restraint and the avoidance of provocative declarations and statements. This election, was by all means, supposed to be different given Mnangagwa’s pledge to turn a new leaf and dump “Mugabeism” that had become the hallmark of our body politic.
Besides, why has Police Commissioner General Godwin Matanga invoked the Public Order and Security Act (Posa)? To curtail the freedoms of Zimbabweans, really?
Although Mnangagwa has delivered on some fronts, he has dismally failed where it matters most by displaying his intolerance of divergent views in the full glare of the international community he invited to give the much-needed international recognition to his re-election. Worse still, the demonstrations were violently crushed shortly after some regional observer groups had just issued statements describing the elections as free and fair, despite misgivings raised by the opposition. What is more scary is, if observers choose to pack their bags and head home ignoring the blatant abuse of State apparatuses they witnessed yesterday, then they would have betrayed Zimbabweans and condemned them to a life in hell over the next five years should Zanu PF be declared winners of this poll.
We believe it’s time observers, both regional and international, dump their quiet diplomacy and tell Mnangagwa in the face that he does not qualify to lead a civilian government. South Africa as head of Sadc can play a key role here.