Image rebuilding campaign derailed

Tragic events of this week that saw soldiers open fire on protestors have indeed set the nation back significantly.

Editorial

After selling the “Zimbabwe is open for business” line to the international community since his ascension to the most powerful position in government and his ruling Zanu PF, President Emmerson Mnangagwa had raised hopes of restoring democracy and ensuring real change.

To many, Mnangagwa was a true reformer in the league of Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union leader whose perestoika and glasnost paradigm shift not only helped end the Cold War, but also reform the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev’s ideas were seen as a clear break from a past of international isolation. Now, with six dead civilians in the morgue, the future of the country is shrouded in the worst uncertainty since Mnangagwa rose to power eight months ago through a military coup. It is an appaling situation.

Unlike the previous polls, this week’s elections had been characterised by commendable levels of peace as parties shunned the use of violence as a campaign tools. Aided by that, the world thought Zimbabwe was indeed close to authoring a new destiny.

But this dream seems to be slowly evaporating if events of this week, epitomised by the callous shooting of protestors, are anything to go by. While elections were held peacefully throughout the country, it seems the good work done by the political players has been sabotaged and the opportunity squandered.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), the body overseeing the elections, took its sweet time in releasing the presidential poll results, casting doubt on its independence, credibility and ability to conduct free and fair elections.

In the aftermath of Wednesday’s protests, Harare’s central business district, a nerve centre of the economy, was shut down. By yesterday, the city was still closed for business, reportedly at the behest of soldiers, who are now in charge of city’s security. Individuals were also not spared as they were ordered to vacate the city as the military moved to quell civil unrest and assert authority after Wednesday’s violent clashes.

The financial implications of the closure of business cannot be underestimated, especially for an administration which has been singing the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra.

A mid-morning walk through First Street, Zimbabwe’s major retail and business thoroughfare, showed that all shops had been closed, while individuals were seen fleeing the city amid fears there could be a repeat of Wednesday’s deadly shootouts. Several opposition supporters are feared dead after soldiers opened fire on them to dissuade riots and avert anarchy that caused a lockdown of the city.

As anticipated, government has begun taking flak from the international community over the manner in which it quelled protests.

By late yesterday, the observer missions issued a joint statement condemning what they said was the excessive use of force in subduing protests.

With Mnangagwa securing a controversial and blood-stained victory, the country’s bid to rebrand has been badly derailed.

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