Mnangagwa willing to emulate Mugabe

President Emmerson Mnangagwa seen here with former President Robert Mugabe
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The cameraman was filming from a distance, through the dust-covered window of a car, but he managed to capture the scene before him.

A policeman and a soldier centred on a pair of local residents in a township in Harare, taking wild swings with their batons. The image was shocking and the message was clear – the authorities make the rules in these parts.

The residents fled in fear, smarting from the strikes on their limbs.

Residents in Harare fled in fear as police and soldiers struck them with batons
Image:Residents in Harare fled in fear as police and soldiers struck them with batons
President Emmerson Mnangagwa took power in 2017
Image:President Emmerson Mnangagwa took power in 2017

The incident took place during a nationwide shutdown ordered by the government of Emmerson Mnangagwa, who imposed the measure after opposition figures called for protests against corruption, economic mismanagement and the collapse of public services.

The president sees the situation differently, characterising public demonstrations as acts of insurrection and he has already moved against the man who tried to organise them.

Jacob Ngarivhume of the Transform Zimbabwe party has been charged and detained and awaits trial for incitement to participate in public violence.

He is joined at the Harare Remand Prison by a campaigning journalist called Hopewell Chin’ono, who says his arrest is related to a series of exposes he produced about state-sponsored graft.

Journalist Hopewell Chin'ono was arrested on Monday
Image:Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was arrested on Monday

A small number did heed the call to protest, taking to the streets and dusty tracks with cardboard signs – despite the threat of arrest and imprisonment.

Award-winning author Tsitsi Dangarembga and colleague Julie Barnes were bundled into a police truck after their two-person protest, complete with signs stating “we want better – reform our institutions” and “we want a better Zimbabwe for all”, was shut down.

Tsitsi Dangarembga was charged with incitement to commit violence
Image:Tsitsi Dangarembga was charged with incitement to commit violence
Reports of corruption and violence are on the rise in Zimbabwe
Image:Protesters demonstrated against claims of corruption and violence

Ms Dangaremgba was charged with incitement to commit violence and breaching COVID-19 health regulations at Harare’s central magistrates’ court.

Sky News caught up with the 2020 Booker Prize nominee after her bail hearing, where she told us she had the constitutional right to protest for a better country.

She said: “All Zimbabweans want a better life for all Zimbabweans and the people who live here, and I think that’s the right motive to have. It’s a good thing to live by and work for.”

Among dozens of other people who were arrested was the spokesperson for the main opposition party, the MDC Alliance.

Fadzayi Mahere broadcast her arrest on Facebook, filming riot police climbing a fence at a shopping centre in order to apprehend her.

Fadzayi Mahere broadcast her arrest on Facebook
Image:Fadzayi Mahere broadcast her arrest on Facebook

Later, she was granted bail and stopped to speak to Sky News, saying: “It is an indictment on who we have become as a society when people cannot speak outside their homes and protest against all the injustice we see, the fact that corruption is killing us.

“If we are criminalising the very fact of speaking out, that cannot be the Zimbabwe we are seeking.”

President Mnangagwa took power in 2017, promising higher living standards and world-class public services.

But he and his colleagues from the ruling ZANU-PF party have only managed to exacerbate the country’s precarious economic situation.

The unemployment rate is estimated at around 90% and inflation is running at over 700%. The cost of basic goods like bread and medicine is simply out of reach for most Zimbabweans.

Instead, President Mnangagwa is fast becoming associated with the man he replaced, the country’s long-time dictator, Robert Mugabe.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa ordered a nationwide shutdown
Image:President Emmerson Mnangagwa ordered a nationwide shutdown

Despite orchestrating Mugabe’s overthrow in 2017, Mr Mnangagwa has resorted to similar tactics to safeguard his rule.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International accuse his government of orchestrating a brutal crackdown on human rights, including state-run witch-hunts against anyone who challenge his rule.

This weekend’s shutdown and the associated arrests demonstrate that his regime is no longer prepared to sanction the smallest expressions of dissent.

Source: Sky News