🔒 Zimbabwe looks just as it did in the bad, old Mugabe days – Washington Post

EDINBURGH — Zimbabweans were overjoyed when Robert Mugabe was finally ejected as president after nearly four decades of crushing rule. But, a year on, depression has set in. Zimbabwe, as The Washington Post tells its readers, looks like it did in the Mugabe era. President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised a better economy, freedom of speech and free and fair elections – but none of this came to pass. Instead, Zimbabweans are poorer than ever and inflation is rising rapidly. Violence has marred Mnangagwa’s term, too. – Jackie Cameron

By Thulasizwe Sithole

Zimbabweans shed euphoric tears when Robert Mugabe, then 93, was forced out of office by the military after 37 years as president. But one year later, Zimbabwe’s optimism has dimmed, reports The Washington Post.

“For now, the dreams are stifled. An already ruined economy has been further ravaged by new inflation. Rapprochement with the West, which shunned Zim­babwe for decades and held back investment and job growth, has been hesitant at best. And the results of the first post-Mugabe elections are still contested four months later by the main opposition party,” it says.

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Zimbabweans shed euphoric tears when Robert Mugabe was forced out of office.

Mugabe was deposed in what his successor calls a “military-assisted transition.” It came as the culmination of a succession battle between Mugabe’s wife, Grace, and his former right-hand man and spy chief, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, The Washington Post reminds its readers. 

“Mugabe fired Mnangagwa, who fled the country. Sensing a power play by the deeply unpopular Grace Mugabe, the army emerged onto the streets. Under pressure, Mugabe resigned. Mnangagwa returned and was sworn in as president three days later. The army’s top general became his deputy,” it says.

At his inauguration, Mnangagwa promised to build a Zimbabwe that would not look like Mugabe’s. It would have freedom of expression, a strong currency, billions of dollars in foreign investment, re-engagement with the West and elections in July complete with international observers.”

But none of this has come to pass. “In the rural areas where Mugabe and Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF party had established a deep system of patronage over nearly four decades, a scene similar to the past’s less-than-fair elections was playing out.

“The lives of opposition candidates and their followers were threatened. ZANU-PF candidates openly paid people to attend their rallies with state-owned goods like fertiliser and corn flour. State-owned media gave exceedingly disproportionate time to ZANU-PF political ads.

“On election day, the mood was still mostly buoyant — and voting went off without a hitch. But as the vote-counting process dragged on, the opposition became louder about electoral manipulation, unfairness and even alleged rigging,” says The Washington Post.

In a worrying sign that the country was set to move into crisis, on Aug. 1, after an opposition protest in the centre of Harare devolved into rioting, the army came out onto the streets for the first time since that day last November. “They shot live rounds indiscriminately into the crowds, killing six and wounding dozens. It was a scene of carnage and heartbreak,” says the US publication.

“If we are just going to have citizens facing live ammunition in the streets of Harare, it makes us wonder where we are at,” said Jestina Mukoko, director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, a nonprofit human rights monitoring group.

Zimbabwe is now as politically divided as it has ever been, observes The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, Mnangagwa’s promised surge in investment has proved paltry, and the economy has continued to be a source of misery. The political instability stemming from the contested election and its aftermath has led many international investors to conclude that Zimbabwe is still too risky for investment, says the media company.

A decade ago, during Zim­babwe’s worst economic crisis, inflation spiralled out of control, leading the government to print hundred-trillion-dollar notes before eventually scrapping the Zimbabwean dollar altogether, opting instead for bond notes pegged to the US dollar. 

“But that bond currency has been undermined by the government’s continued printing of it to pay the salaries of its employees. In October, it took a nose-dive and just like in 2008, untold numbers of people lost all their savings.

“The inflation crisis has hit hospitals particularly hard, leaving them unable to afford imported medicines.

“Our patients are relapsing, deteriorating, operations being canceled,” the Zimbabwe Medical Association is reported as saying a statement last week.

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