CONCERNS recently raised by the House of Lords in the United Kingdom over the deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe and a call for action on Harare after the arrest and detention of opposition MDC Alliance party leaders and activists in the past few weeks are hardly surprising.
This comes only three months after Boris Johnson’s government slapped four Zimbabwean security officials with sanctions over alleged human rights abuses.
This adds to the sanctions imposed by the United States which were renewed by United States President Joe Biden soon after his inauguration in January this year.
Applying a new sanctions regime following its exit from the European Union, the UK cited the Zanu PF government’s crackdown on opposition protesters in January 2019 which killed 17 people and post-election violence in August 2018, which claimed six lives.
Predictably, the Zanu PF regime will froth at the mouth and accuse the United Kingdom of attacking the country’s sovereignty as well as brazenly interfering in its affairs.
But, behind the grandstanding and posturing by the government is a desperate attempt to be accepted back into the international fold, particularly the Commonwealth. Zimbabwe also wants to have all sanctions imposed on it lifted.
Indeed, nothing depicts this desperation more than the move by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration to splurge millions of dollars in scarce foreign currency to pay foreign public relations firms to spruce up its battered international image and bolster a diplomatic re-engagement drive that has gone off the rails. This is due to a growing backlash over the deteriorating political and economic rights situation in the country.
It is baffling that the government expects to be welcomed by the West with open arms without addressing citizens’ concerns which include the intensified crackdown on the citizenry, opposition and civic society.
Is it not a travesty of justice to incarcerate citizens for longer periods without trial, let alone on flimsy or trumped-up charges? MDC Alliance MP Joanah Mamombe and Cecilia Chimbiri have now clocked two months in remand prison after they were denied bail for allegedly violating COVID-19 safety regulations.
MDC Alliance leaders, including party vice-presidents Tendai Biti and Lynette Karenyi-Kore among others, are also on trial for allegedly contravening the same regulations.
Yet, Zanu PF officials who have violated COVID-19 protocols with reckless abandon go scot free in what is clearly a selective application of the law.
Demonstrations have effectively been banned under the guise of maintaining political stability, with opposition activists accused of plotting to overthrow government.
Mnangagwa is yet to implement recommendations by the Kgalema Motlanthe Commission, which he appointed to investigate the killing of six civilians by soldiers during the 2018 post-election violence. The commission recommended that the soldiers who shot civilians be brought to book, yet nothing has yet happened thus far.
It is such actions which will make any efforts by the government to re-engage with the international community futile. It is either they reform or remains frozen out. They cannot have their cake and eat it!