HARARE – After a day of worldwide social media protests demanding the restoration of human rights in Zimbabwe, a belligerent President Emmerson Mnangagwa appeared on state television Wednesday to denounce “dark forces”, “a few rogue Zimbabweans” and “terrorist opposition groupings.”
Tensions are rising in Zimbabwe as the economy implodes. Inflation is more than 700 percent, the second-highest in the world, while the World Food Programme has projected that 60 percent of the population could be food insecure by the end of the year.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought a new layer of suffering. In public hospitals, doctors and nurses are frequently on strike and infrastructure is so dilapidated that unborn children and mothers are dying daily, according to the Zimbabwe Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Mnangagwa deflected criticism on Wednesday, accusing opposition rivals and critics of lacking patriotism and hurting economic revival efforts.
“My administration has faced many hurdles and attacks since its inauguration, including the divisive politics of some opposition elements, the illegal economic sanctions, cyclones, droughts and more recently the deadly Covid-19,” Mnangagwa said.
“Added to this is the economic aggression, local currency manipulation and detractors who fear the inevitable imminent success of our reforms.”
Mnangagwa made the speech as local and international pressure mounted on his administration over the allegations of human rights abuses.
The hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter has been used in social media to draw attention to the wave of arrests.
Security agents deployed in the capital, Harare, and other major cities last week to foil a protest planned for July 31, resulting in empty streets that day.
Some people who tweeted in support of the demonstrations or tried to hold low key protests were arrested, and some were assaulted and tortured, according to human rights groups.
Mnangagwa accused rivals of being sponsored by western countries to “slow down our progress”.
“We will overcome attempts at destabilisation of our society by a few rogue Zimbabweans acting in league with our foreign detractors,” he railed.
“The reforms – opening up, liberalisation and modernisation – we began shall continue with accelerated pace. Those who promote hate and disharmony will never win. The bad apples that have attempted to divide our people and weaken our systems shall be flushed out. Good shall triumph over evil.”
Mnangagwa claimed that his regime which came to power through a military coup in 2017 was “entrenching democracy and the rule of law” in Zimbabwe adding that “the door to the old manner of doing things the old way is shut.”
Critics say human rights abuses are worse under the 77-year-old Mnangagwa, who was assisted by the military to topple the late long-time ruler Robert Mugabe.
Investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono has been in jail for two weeks after he posted on social media in support of the anti-government demonstrations and made a series of allegations of government corruption. Chin’ono awaits a bail ruling on Thursday on charges of inciting violence.
Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa visited Chin’ono and Jacob Ngarivhume, who called for the July 31 protests, in prison Tuesday.
“Clearly we must do something about what is happening,” Chamisa said. “It is time that we take care of Zimbabwean lives that matter. We must be serious about the situation.”
Chamisa said Chin’ono and Ngarvhume were “in high spirits”, adding: “They really want to see a better country.”
Other arrests include internationally known author Tsitsi Dangarambga and MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere who were held in police cells overnight last week after staging a small protest. Journalist Mduduzi Mathuthu and several members of the MDC Alliance are in hiding.
Mnangagwa made no reference to the brutal crackdown by security forces in his address on Tuesday, aiming his attacks on the opposition instead.
“We’ll continue to strive to achieve a delicate balance between the maintenance of peace and security on the one hand and protecting civil liberties and individual rights on the other,” Mnangagwa said.
“In all circumstances, public officials and security services will carry out their duties with appropriate astuteness and resolve. The protection of the right to life is paramount especially in light of Covid-19 pandemic and the machinations by destructive terrorist opposition groupings.
“The dark forces both inside and outside our borders have tampered with our growth and prosperity for too long. They have thrived on dividing us, let us as a people embrace the call for patriotism, hard work, transparency, accountability, love, unity and peace.”
Source: Zim Live