BY MOSES MATENGA
ZIMBABWE has failed to end the culture of human rights abuses witnessed under its former leader Robert Mugabe, while the optimism generated by the election of President Emmerson Mnangagwa has faded, a new report has said.
According to a report on sub-Saharan Africa by Nic Cheeseman titled A Changing of the Guards or A Change of Systems, which highlights transitions in 44 African countries, Zimbabweans were left frustrated by the power transfer that brought Mnangagwa to power in November 2017.
Cheeseman is a Professor of Democracy and International Development at the University of Birmingham and the report was a review of developments from 2017 to the start of 2019.
MDC Alliance vice president Tendai Biti also told South African media that Zimbabwe was still witnessing human rights abuses and an attack on democracy under Mnangagwa similar to the time under the rule of the late Mugabe.
Mnangagwa took over as leader in November 2017 after military chiefs ended Mugabe’s rule after 37 years. The demise of Mugabe, long seen as one of Africa’s strongmen, and the subsequent rise of Mnangagwa presented a new opportunity for Zimbabwe. Two years on, that hope has faded, according to the report.
“While Cameroon, Chad, Kenya and Tanzania have moved further away from lasting political and economic transformation, Angola, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe initially appeared to be making progress towards it,” the report read in part.
“However, in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, this impression did not last beyond the end of the BTI reporting period, and the new governments of both countries now stand accused of committing similar human rights abuses to their predecessors.”
Mnangagwa’s rise was accompanied with promises that the Zanu PF government, known as the new dispensation, would demonstrate greater respect to democratic norms and values.
“In Zimbabwe, the use of repression to intimidate opposition parties and civil society groups led to accusations that despite all the rhetoric there was little difference between the new administration of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the old Robert Mugabe regime,” the report read in part.
“However, hope that the country had experienced a major political turning point was subsequently undermined when the protests of opposition supporters against suspected electoral manipulation were violently repressed by the army, leading to at least six deaths,” the report said in apparent reference to the August 1, 2018 protests.
The report said the Mnangagwa administration had reverted to Mugabe’s default excuse of blaming sanctions for its failures.
“However, as with economic performance, the government does not appear to be able to deliver on its early promises.”
“In the face of mounting opposition protests against the political situation and civil society protests against the economic situation and the abuse of human rights, the Zanu PF government has increasingly sought to scapegoat its domestic rivals and international critics rather than actually tackling the structural barriers to economic growth.”
“For example, by early 2019 the Mnangagwa government had already moved away from the initial rhetoric of the reform agenda and began accusing Western governments of seeking to undermine the country’s economy and orchestrate “regime change”, effectively reverting to a Mugabe-era strategy.”
Mnangagwa has in the last weeks accused the West and diplomats accredited to Zimbabwe of working with the opposition to topple his government.
Zimbabwe has been experiencing a serious economic and political crisis under Mnangagwa, who is under pressure from the international community over human rights abuses.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa last week appointed special envoys to meet Mnangagwa and other stakeholders in Zimbabwe.
The team, made of Sydney Mufamadi and Baleka Mbete, however, retuned to SA after only meeting Mnangagwa.
Biti yesterday accused Mnangagwa of blocking the SA delegation arguing there was no crisis in Zimbabwe.
“There is a crisis in Zimbabwe. There is an implosion, the military are everywhere suffocating people’s rights, and people are being abducted tortured, sexually abused,” Biti said.
“Journalists and activists are languishing in prison so leadership is required of the region of Cyril Ramaphosa but we find the actions and tantrums of Emmerson Mnangagwa as totally unacceptable and unacceptable denialism,” Biti said.
“It has been three years since the departure of Robert Mugabe but Emmerson Mnangagwa has taken our country to unprecedented levels of failure and collapse.
“The amount of corruption that he is presiding over, the abuse of human rights, the abuse of workers and misgovernance is unprecedented. He is clearly presiding over the worst government in the history of governments.”
“Under Emmerson Mnangagwa, we jumped from a frying pan into a fire,” he said.
South African ruling party chairperson for international relations committee Lindiwe, Zulu ANC, Lindiwe Zulu, who on Tuesday insisted Zimbabwe was in a crisis, has been accused by Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba of breaching protocol.
“Cde Lindiwe Zulu, chairperson of the ANC’s international relations committee, is quoted in today’s press as calling for ‘honest and frank’ discussion on the situation in Zimbabwe,” Charamba said.
“I will ignore her breach of protocol by pronouncing herself on the situation in Zimbabwe ahead of report back by special envoys of the two Heads of State, odd even though that is, so we engage on substantive issues on the situation in Zimbabwe.
“Cde Lindiwe Zulu has been long enough in government to know the provenance of Zimbabwe’s woes, namely related to western illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe over land reforms.
“I am sure she knows that those sanctions, far from being dismantled, are in fact being tightened yearly. Sadc has taken a position against those sanctions, a position which now has been adopted by the African Union.”
Charamba said the special envoys sent by Ramaphosa were not in Zimbabwe to meet other “stakeholders” but the President.
“Clearing confusion over purpose and mandate of presidential special envoys, presidential special envoys are deputations between two heads of State. Theirs is to deliver a message from one head of State to another and, to take back the response to sending Head of State,” Charamba said.
He said people have been, under the #ZimbabweanLivesMatter hashtag campaign, sending old pictures and videos to portray Zimbabwe as a country on fire and all that was exposed to the envoys.
“All that fraud was exposed to the envoys, including the use of images of victims of Ian Smith,” Charamba said.
BY MOSES MATENGA