At 37 years old, in 2017, Zimbabweans thought that they had finally been released from the tyrannical clutches of Robert Mugabe and his power hungry wife Grace. The military coup was viewed as a third Chimurenga and the men in camouflage had finally come to rescue the nation. We were fooled. Mugabe’s successor ED Mnangagwa promised to give the people the sort of independence they had been promised in 1980 and completely break from the authoritarian rule of Mugabe, his economic mismanagement and persecution of those who opposed him. Mnangagwa declared that Zimbabwe was now open for business. Almost 4 years on, our outlook has become grimmer.
Today marks 41 years of independence. There is scarcely anything to celebrate. The lives of the ordinary Zimbabwean is far worse than it was under the White rule of Ian Smith in Rhodesia. There is widespread repression of any opposition political and civil activists and the economy is close to collapse.
ED Mnangagwa’s government has driven a campaign of repression, abuse of human rights, persecution of opposition and civil rights activists and closure of the democratic space. Unknown to us Zimbabweans, the military coup of 2017 was taken as a stamp of approval from the citizenry for the involvement of the army in national and civil matters. The government of Mnangagwa uses the army to persecute citizens in the streets, in their homes and in their workplaces. The military men of ED’s government use their armies to police the people.
The COVID-19 pandemic was used as a pretext to ban political and civil activity. Under the shadow of the pandemic the government has opposition members of parliament and councillors in local governments continue being “recalled”/dismissed from elected office without due process. A growing trend where the law, as in the colonial era, is being systematically used to suppress citizens and Human Rights Defenders.
It is important to note that the people that lead us now are part of the old guard that flanked Mugabe during his time. The sad reality for Zimbabweans is that we are going to continue down this path of political polarisation, protests and violence at the hands of the ED government and the country’s downward spiral.