Mnangagwa’s government: The mask has slipped

Candour Nqaba Matshazi

In April last year, on these pages, I expressed concern at President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government’s obvious fascination with Rwanda and China.

On the face of it, it seemed as if Mnangagwa wanted to learn from Rwanda how a country can be moved from the brink of the abyss to a point where it was seen as an example that other African countries can follow.

My concern, however, was that the Zimbabwean government was not being drawn to Rwanda by the romanticised notion of development and economic growth, but rather by a more sinister agenda, where one party is entrenched in power and all forms of opposition to the government are crushed.

When I wrote the article, Mnangagwa had been in power for about five months and there was still euphoria surrounding his presidency and the fall of his predecessor Robert Mugabe.

Telltale signs were emerging that the new administration, in spite of all its posturing, was averse to criticism and did not take kindly to opposition.

I worried that at the first whiff of a threat to the Zanu PF government’s hold on power, the ruling party would revert to default settings, throw away all
pretence of being reformers and crush anyone who threatened it.

Well, it is now evident that Mnangagwa and his government managed to pull the wool over our eyes and those of the international community with claims that they
were reforming when all they were doing was buying time in the hope they would gain acceptance by even the biggest skeptics.

The events of last Friday in Harare are a clear sign that this government will go to any lengths to stop anyone from demonstrating against it, regardless of
what the Constitution says.

The government unleashed police officers on people that were sitting on the ground and evidently not posing any threat to anyone.

If this was an illegal gathering, then the police could have simply shepherded the protesters away, without anyone being savaged with truncheons or being
kicked indiscriminately all over the body.

Using violence to disperse the demonstrators is, as one person said in a totally different context, the equivalent of punching yourself in the mouth as you try
to pick your nose.

Moving the protesters out of the central business district peacefully would have somewhat helped cement Mnangagwa’s credentials as a reformist who deserves
another chance and is better than his predecessor.

But now, in spite of all the goodwill he had barely two years ago, comparisons are now being drawn between Mnangagawa and his predecessor, with the less
charitable saying the current President is worse than Mugabe.

As The Economist succinctly put it: “When Zimbabweans are expressing nostalgia for Robert Mugabe you know things must be bad.”

It is unimaginable that anyone can be worse at governing than Mugabe, but when the economy is tanking, civil liberties are curtailed and democratic space is
closed, parallels will be drawn and they will be very unkind to the incumbent.

Every pretence that this government was opening up political space, allowing free expression and association went up in smoke last week, and the mask has truly
slipped. In August 2018, when the army was unleashed on civilians, some people generally considered as reasonable were willing to make excuses for the
government’s excesses and the setting up of a commission of enquiry helped assuage the few that were beginning to ask questions.

Instead of blaming the army and the government for the excesses, blame was shifted to an opposition that was being accused of being over eager and impatient to
get into power.

Then the January shootings happened and the number of apologists shrunk quite considerably, but there were some that felt that some force was needed to quell
the rampaging protesters.

Never mind that the use of force was disproportionate in both circumstances, excuses were made for Mnangagwa and his administration.

But the administration is a one trick pony, and soon enough blaming the opposition for the violence unleashed on civilians became a tired excuse, and the world
began to see beyond the facade.

The international community was quick to condemn the latest crackdown and the alleged abductions that preceded the aborted August 16 protests.

Mnangagwa can rest assured he has squandered all the goodwill he so craved and the world is now watching him with the eyes of a hawk.

The government may continue pawning claims that it is reforming and that it is replacing bad laws with new ones, but the reality is that it will find no
buyers.

What Mnangagwa and his government can be doing, in the meantime, is to cancel the two contracts Zimbabwe has with two American lobby firms, as I doubt they
will make much headway in having the sanctions removed.

And besides, Zimbabwe needs that money desperately for more important things rather than pointless propaganda.

Zimbabwe is squarely back in the realms of pariah status; no amount of propaganda or sugar coating will extricate us from this mess.

Instead, Mnangagwa should be prioritising the reforms that he promised, entrenching rights such as freedoms of assembly, speech and association.

No matter how unpalatable it is, Mnangagwa has to accept that the opposition is a reality and from time to time they are going to demonstrate against him for
one reason or another. Whether he is a success or a failure, there will always be some form of discontent.

Blocking demonstrations will only heighten comparisons with Mugabe and make a mockery of his government’s two favourite cliches; new dispensation and second
republic.

The idea of going the Rwanda way may be seductive; winning elections with 97% of the vote and barely having any opposition to contend with is quite a tempting
prospect, but it is not achievable in Zimbabwe.

6 Comments

  1. We know without any doubt that you are a staunch supporter of western imperialism in Africa but it apears like in Zimbabwe, your shenanigans will fail to produce desired results. How can you talk about a bad economy which any fool knows got bad during Mugabe’s reign and want to point a finger at the current government for it? Mnangagwa, as a leader we voted for has a constitutional mandate to run the country the way he sees best for a full five year term without western sponsored disturbances and his finance minister has wisely chosen the path of austerity and the method is already bearing descernible fruit, at least for now only by economist and other experts but whose results will soon be enjoyed by the general populace. Mugabe beter than Ed is a very big lie and you know it yourself. Economy getting worse than during Mugabe’s reign is another big lie with no evidence at all and you yourself know it. Those are just empty acusations meant to please your western sponsors and their local Mdc pupets.

    1. Nemburungwe Chimedza

      I bet my bottom dollar you are not living in Zimbabwe or rather you are living in a hole somewhere in Zim…

    2. @Farai – Garbage – This is a brutal military junta.

  2. And zimbabweans need to be taught that the freedoms in our constitution are never meant to be abused. They are enjoyed relative to other freedoms enshrined within the same constitution. My freedom to demonstrate should not infringe on the freedom of another person not to do the same if they so choose. It should also not disturb other people’s day to day business. My freedom to express myself should also not infringe on the executive’s mendate to mantain peace and order. My fredom of expression cannot allow me to baricade roads which other citizens have a constitutional right to utilise any time of their choice. Those freedoms are not allowed by the law to be used as a means of unconstitutionaly usurping exucutive authority. Interestingly, Chamisa and Sikhala openly say they want to use these freedoms to unseat President Mnangagwa, a move that for obvious reasons can be bloody. So the mission of these particular protests is clearly criminal and dengerous as well. Anyone who plays with fire will get burnt.

  3. Talking about Mnangagwa’s failure to take advantage of the so called good will from the so called international community, there has never been such good will to begin with. Those western countries have never extended any kind of goodwill to governments born out of liberation struggle against their kith and kin. Those western powers will never like the zanu pf government whatever Zanu Pf does correctly. Zanu Pf will be mistaken to believe otherwise. Also the western powers do not like africans, they are only interested in what they can steal from here through their pupets. These are the very people who bult vast amounts of wealth from enslavement of blacks and now they want to accuse Ed of abusing human rights for resisting seeding authority to their puppet. Those who desire peace in our country should never believe lies told in this article because they risk being made sacrificial lambs in a cause which has nothing to do with them. When law enforcement agents urge you to be peaceful, it is for your own good.

  4. Those planned demonstrations were meant to cause bloodshed so that the opposition would have something bad about the zanu pf government which would turn other sadc members against Ed at the previous sadc summit but that plan failed. There were actualy falsehoods about some peoply having been shot dead by the police on Mdc social media accounts but those were all lies and wishes. That was the plan , to have some of their blind followers killed for their political expediency. The law enforcement agents foresaw it and managed to avert that and we must thank them for such a great job. It is also highly comentable on the part of our judiciary to succesfully rule against plans to distabilise our motherland. Zimbabwe now needs a peaceful invironment more than ever before. We need to work hard, remain calm and peaceful for our economic programs to bear fruit. Those who encourage anarchy and spread hatred among zimbabweans will never come to your aid when the terible concequences thereof come to haunt you.

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