IT has become a recurring theme of Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa: lofty promises accompanied by actions that are the complete opposite that have left observers scratching their heads and wondering if they should take his word seriously.
In his first state of the nation address after replacing longtime ruler, the now late Robert Mugabe as President, Mnangagwa said his priorities were to revive the southern African nation’s ailing economy and fight the scourge of corruption.
He also promised “a robust engagement and re-engagement programme with the international community in our continued bid to rejoin the community of nations.” Since then, everything has gone haywire. With a huge amount of goodwill, Zimbabweans and the international community looked forward to the translation of these promises into policy and tangible progress. Nobody cared how Mugabe was removed, his 37 years of tyranny having left the country on its knees economically and democratically.
But in the past three years and a bit, Zimbabwe’s political trajectory has taken a turn for the worse as a deepening economic crisis, combined with a brutal crackdown on government’s domestic opponents has left everybody disappointed in Mnangagwa. All the dreams which Zimbabweans had when Mugabe fell faded like popular myths, and reality has become something of a nightmare from a horror movie.
While it was unexpected, it was also not surprising that Zimbabwe joined other rogue nations in voting against a United Nations General Assembly measure that seeks to protect vulnerable populations against “genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”
So, Zimbabwe is being banded together with rogue nations such as North Korea, Russia, China, Burundi, and Eritrea, countries whose human rights records are despicable. This is not the company we want to keep, this “Wall of Shame” we find the country on at the United Nations simply tells us that Mnangagwa’s government is not ready to join the international community as a respected member.
Zimbabwe’s presence on that wall tells us that the government has no respect for human rights and that the immediate future will be fraught with more abuses. It tells us that this government is not ready to be accountable to its own people and the international community about how it treats its citizens.
That, perhaps, explains the tokenism for the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, which should really be setting the agenda for acceptance of the country into the international community of nations by healing past mistakes and setting standards on how we ought to treat each other as a people going forward.
At a recent meeting with senior journalists and editors, Zimbabwe’s new Foreign Affairs and International Trade minister Frederick Shava said he wanted to make Zimbabwe a friend to all.
“The ministry will strive to end the country’s isolation through continued engagement and re-engagement with all members of the international community by rebranding our country’s battered image, consolidating old friendships and opening new economic frontiers of mutual beneficial co-operation will thus remain a critical foreign policy objective.”
Well, his tenure has certainly started with ignominy. The irony is that the UN measure came “amid a historic weakening of the laws and norms that safeguard humanity and at a time when a record 80 million people around the world have been displaced by persecution, conflict, and atrocities”.
It is a shame that Mnangagwa’s government thinks asking it to value the lives of its citizens and treat them with respect and dignity is too much to ask. A real shame indeed.