🔒 World loses faith in Mnangagwa as Zim soldiers brutalise citizens

EDINBURGH — Zimbabweans have expressed  frustration at what they perceive to be limited coverage in the international media of violent domestic conflicts between citizens and the authorities. There are few international correspondents in Zimbabwe, whose government repressed the right to freedom of speech more than two decades ago as former President Robert Mugabe upped the pace of the Zanu-PF land grab campaign. Nevertheless, information has leaked out about the nasty tactics to quell unrest against rising fuel prices and economic collapse. Stories of soldiers going door to door threatening to torture and kill people who eke out a living as street vendors have made it into The Washington Post, for example. The US publication underscores that faith in President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who won last year’s election amid allegations of vote rigging, is quickly dwindling amid growing concerns of human rights abuses. There appears to be little hope that Mnangagwa can persuade international investors to support Zimbabwe on his watch. – Jackie Cameron 

By Thulasizwe Sithole

It was midnight when soldiers threatened to burn Jennifer Mutobaya and her three teenage sons alive inside their home in the Zimbabwean town of Kadoma, writes The Washington Post’s correspondent.

“Protesters had filled the streets earlier, chanting slogans and burning tires, joining a display of fury at a hike in fuel prices that is part of a broader economic collapse in this southern African country.

“The scene at her home was one repeated hundreds of times across Zimbabwe over the past week as security forces launched their biggest crackdown on dissent in years,” the newspaper continues

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“They took away my two sons and ordered them to clear the road that was barricaded with burning tires using their bare hands,” it quotes Mutobaya, who is a street vendor, as saying. “I tried to intervene, and they beat me with an electric cable.”

The publication sets out other similar scenarios, including of Elvis, a carpenter in the Highfields neighbourhood of the capital, Harare, who is covered in scars after a similar raid.

“They beat me and my wife with a sjambok in front of our kids, saying we were part of the riots,” he tells the journalists. The soldiers, armed with automatic rifles, also reportedly made him roll in mud.

The door-to-door operation, says The Washington Post, has led to 12 deaths, 78 gunshot wounds, hundreds of instances of assault or torture, and enough arrests to fill prisons beyond capacity. Its information comes from the Zimbab­we Human Rights NGO Forum, an umbrella organisation that compiles reports from observers across the country.

Read also: From inside Zimbabwe: ‘We’re VERY, VERY scared’

Soldiers took action following unrest and a call for a nationwide “shutdown” provoked by a government-implemented 150% price hike on fuel, the media outlet explains. “Faith in the government of Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was cheered when he deposed longtime leader Robert Mugabe in 2017, is quickly dwindling,” it continues.

“The potential for further unrest and the widespread reports of looting that have accompanied the protests will only plunge Zimbabwe into deeper economic misery.”

Mnangagwa has been criticised for embarking on a string of state visits to Russia and former Soviet states and leaving a deputy known for his heavy hand, former army commander Constantino Chiwenga, in charge.

“Leaving after such an announcement, which he knew would be like lighting a match to gas — it’s hard not to question his judgment,” it quotes Piers Pigou, a southern African analyst at the International Crisis Group, as saying.

“Zimbabwe’s police and army held a joint news conference Saturday in which they chalked up the crackdown to thieves who had stolen uniforms from security forces. And the ruling party’s chairman blamed the protests on the main opposition party’s ‘terrorist agenda’.”

Ominously, George Charamba, a government spokesman, addressed the protesters from a stop in Azerbaijan, where he was traveling with Mnangagwa.

“The response so far is just a foretaste of things to come,” he reportedly said.

A spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change, the opposition party, said five of its members of parliament were under arrest and four others were unaccounted for, according to The Washington Post.

Mnangagwa promised to return foreign investment to Zimbabwe, which had spent more than a decade under broad international sanctions because of Mugabe’s repressive rule. But, says the paper, he has been slow in weeding out the corruption that dissuades many investors from entering the Zimbabwean market, and his failure to attract foreign currency has contributed to the economy’s continued slide.

“The country does not have a currency of its own, and much of people’s money is locked up in accounts that have no foreign reserves to back them. Inflation is spiralling upward, and new price stickers are printed every day, triggering shortages of everything from cooking oil to medicine and decimating people’s savings,” it adds.

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