Zimbabwe — Critics Allege Democracy “Dead”

  • The regime promised reforms and prosperity when it seized power in 2017, but has so far delivered the direct opposite of the said promises.
  • Human rights defenders accuse the government of using the restrictions imposed to combat the new coronavirus to suppress political criticism.
  • Mnangagwa and his officials deny the accusations, saying that they have carried out democratic reforms.

The state of democracy in Zimbabwe is simply on its death bed, so to speak. Various human rights organizations have come out to openly denounce the ongoing harassment therein, especially directed towards government critics who are subsequently subjected to court cases, abductions, illegal jailing, and torture. 

Supporters of the opposition Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) party take part in anti-government protests over economic hardships in Harare.

Activists Harassed

Godfrey Kurauone, an opposition official ended up in prison for 42 days after he sang a protest song at a party member’s funeral in July. 

A popular Zimbabwean journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono, was detained in the dreaded Chikurubi maximum prison for over a month on charges of having incited violence after he expressed support for an anti-government protest, and also exposed the rampant corruption in the administration, led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, using Twitter.

The country’s internationally-acclaimed author, Tsitsi Dangarembga, was forced to spend a night in prison for standing on the roadside in Harare while holding a placard which read, “We Want Better. Reform Our Institutions.”

Zimbabwe’s economy, which is currently doing very badly and on its death bed as well, coupled with the widespread reports of alleged corruption in the Mnangagwa government, has fueled people’s anger towards the government. The regime promised reforms and prosperity when it seized power in 2017, but has so far delivered the direct opposite of the said promises.

Human rights defenders accuse the government of using the restrictions imposed to combat the new coronavirus to suppress political criticism.

“While the government lockdown has been extended indefinitely, human rights violations have steadily increased, suggesting that the government is using COVID-19 as a cover for violating fundamental freedoms and attacking perceived opponents,” said the local human rights group Zimrights in a joint statement with the International Federation for Human Rights.

Zimbabwe’s opposition, human rights activists, and some analysts have accused Mnangagwa of autocracy, just like his predecessor, the late Robert Mugabe, under whom he served as vice president.

Zimbabwe protesters clash with police.

Mnangagwa and his officials deny the accusations, saying that they have carried out democratic reforms. They justify the harsh penalties by saying that they are aimed at people seeking to overthrow his government.

Dozens of people– including lawyers, journalists, nurses, doctors, opposition politicians, and human rights activists– have been arrested and accused of violating the confinement rules aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, or of protesting in the streets and posting on social media.

ZimRights claims to have registered 820 “human rights violations,” such as arbitrary arrests, assaults by state agents, attacks on journalists, kidnappings, “gun attacks” and dog bites between March and August.

”These cases reveal a trend of human rights violations consisting of acts aiming to morally exhaust, silence, punish, impoverish, sometimes physically injure the targeted individuals, and exposing them to the risk of contracting the virus while arbitrarily detained in prisons,” Zimrights’ joint statement with the International Federation for Human Rights went on.

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Vincent Ferdinand

News reporting is my thing. My view of what is happening in our world is colored by my love of history and how the past influences events taking place in the present time.  I like reading politics and writing articles. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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