🔒 Zimbabwe president Emmerson Mnangagwa is ‘politically vulnerable’ – FT

EDINBURGH — The military has remained on Harare’s streets, even though Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has labelled army violence as unacceptable. This was reported in the London-based Financial Times as some aspects of life in the troubled country returned to normal. After a stayaway, children have trickled back to schools and residents have put fuel in their cars, but the economic crisis shows no sign of easing. The FT quotes analysts cautioning that Mnangagwa is politically vulnerable and unlikely to clamp down on the people who helped him to power in a military coup. – Jackie Cameron

By Thulasizwe Sithole

Violence by Zimbabwe’s security forces during a brutal crackdown on fuel protests had been “unacceptable”, Emmerson Mnangagwa, the president, is reported as saying on Tuesday. In his first statement since returning to Zimbabwe after cutting short an international trip to deal with the crisis, says the Financial Times, Mnangagwa said that “if required, heads will roll”.
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“His comments came amid widespread allegations of abuse by soldiers and police since the protests over mounting economic woes began last week,” says the London-based newspaper.

Civil society groups say at least 12 people have been killed and hundreds arbitrarily arrested in the unrest, which erupted when fuel prices were doubled overnight, according to the FT’s Johannesburg correspondent.

“Violence or misconduct by our security forces is unacceptable and a betrayal of the new Zimbabwe. Chaos and insubordination will not be tolerated,” says Mnangagwa.

But the former security chief also accused protesters of “wanton violence and cynical destruction” and repeated a claim that criminals stole weapons and uniforms to pose as soldiers, continues the FT.

Mnangagwa came to power following a military coup that toppled Robert Mugabe about a year ago.

There is “little sign” Mnangagwa would move against the commanders who installed him by investigating the violence, analysts say.

The president has appeared politically vulnerable in the past few days, according to the FT, with allies accusing members of the ruling Zanu-PF of planning to impeach him.

“A rift has been speculated between Mr Mnangagwa and Constantino Chiwenga, his deputy. Mr Chiwenga engineered the coup against Mr Mugabe and, as acting president, presided over last week’s crackdown.”

According to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, there is evidence of brutality by security forces who allegedly hunted down protesters, activists and opposition leaders in their homes. “Armed and uniformed members of the Zimbabwe National Army and the Zimbabwe Republic Police instigated systematic torture,” the commission is reported as saying.

The FT says Zimbabwe protests have been fuelled by petrol prices being ratcheted up to unsustainable levels. But there is also shortages of basic goods, cash and fuel and surging prices.

Nelson Chamisa, leader of the main opposition MDC Alliance, rejected Mr Mnangagwa’s call and said the government must first release political prisoners [including MDC legislators] and end the crackdown.

“We have long offered a hand to resolve our national challenges. Regrettably this hand has been spurned and mocked,” Mr Chamisa is reported as saying.

“In order to [hold a] dialogue, one’s tongue must be free to talk. The tongues of the nation are tied in jails and many others by fear. This must end,” adds the FT.