“Why would Mnangagwa insist the MDC Alliance was responsible for people’s deaths, yet those protestors were not armed and did not at any stage intend to wage war on one of Africa’s most professional armies? Who in their right frame of mind can make a false comparison between stones and live AK47 bullets?”
The shocking caricature of democracy being orchestrated by Zanu PF following the violence and killings that rocked the streets of Harare in the aftermath of the July 30 general elections is not only astounding but also exhibits government’s determination to paralyse the national economy beyond redemption.
While President Emmerson Mnangagwa is busy trying to exonerate the army and himself for its trigger-happy response to protests by opposition supporters, which happened in the glare of international media cameras, and the killings his attempts are mired in controversy, begging more questions than answers.
In fact, the ludicrous assertion by Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo that it was not the Zimbabwean army but rogue soldiers that ran amok and killed at least six civilians on August 1, and the stark refusal by the authorities to take responsibility for the cold-blooded daylight massacre of civilians, have stunned the world.
Instead of acknowledging that the shootings were a massive leap back to Stalinist politics, government officials have decided to play cheap politics with the blood of innocents.
They have discredited themselves in the process, exposing Mnangagwa’s “Zimbabwe is open for business” motto as vacuous sloganeering.
Meanwhile, The Herald on Tuesday carried a story headlined ZDF has a history of upholding peace, in which Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga claimed the Zimbabwe Defence Forces had a glorious track record for contributing to international peace.
Chiwenga should be told that charity begins at home. How can “rogue” soldiers who kill unarmed civilians on the streets of Harare be mascots of international peacekeeping? Troops who open fire on protesters are no different to blood-thirsty criminals.
Why would Mnangagwa insist the MDC Alliance was responsible for people’s deaths, yet those protestors were not armed and did not at any stage intend to wage war on one of Africa’s “most professional” armies? Who in their right frame of mind can make a false comparison between stones and live AK47 bullets?
Even the respected ZDF commander General Phillip Valerio Sibanda is now singing from the same shameful and heartless hymn sheet — blaming the opposition for the killings instead of killers themselves. The upshot of this disgraceful and callous narrative — which says those killed can’t be victims when they are responsible for their own circumstances and fate — is that Mnangagwa and his officials are not only cold-heartedly denying responsibilty but also blaming victims of reckless and criminal shootings for their murder.
Serious and civilised leaders don’t behave like that; they take responsibilty and tackle the issue head-on. Only cowards do that, just like Robert Mugabe on Gukurahundi and other atrocities during his repressive rule.
Shock of rejection
We all know what happened. Reeling from the shock of rejection by the same masses that helped him and the military to depose Mugabe from power, Mnangagwa felt cornered and opted to unleash unmitigated terror on ordinary people. This was a stern litmus test for Zimbabwe’s so-called new dispensation leaders, which they failed dismally. They are now behaving like true apprentices of Mugabe, their mentor.
Delivering a speech on Defence Forces Day on Tuesday, Mnangagwa said: “. . . We strongly condemn these barbaric acts of violence. Let me once again state that violence and intolerance have no place in the new Zimbabwe, in our Second Republic.”
Muckraker is shell-shocked by the self-indulgent mantra that the country is now a second republic, yet there is virtually nothing to demonstrate a clear break with the autocratic past.
The failure to acknowledge that the army committed unspeakable crimes by murdering unarmed civilians is the clearest sign that Zimbabwe is still firmly rooted in retrogressive politics. What second republic can the Mnangagwas of this country talk about when unemployment is worsening, cash shortages are spiraling out of control and prices of basic commodities are shooting up unabated? Bank queues are a perennial headache, no new factories have been opened despite Zanu PF’s false promise to create millions of jobs, public hospitals and clinics have no painkillers, the black market is flourishing. Not only that — the authorities have criminalised dissent. Could there be any sensible reason why the electorate should celebrate Zanu PF’s victory when the so-called winners themselves have been hard-pressed to find reason for merrymaking?
It was Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo — one of the genuinely rare heroes of this country unlike many pretenders who strut the political stage — who taught us that a nation cannot be built on a foundation of ethnicity and hatred. Level-headed thinking is the answer. This delicate stage in the history of our nation requires sober heads, rational minds and progressive thinkers.
Without learning the art of publicly apologising for several atrocities committed recently and in the past, such as the murder of innocent citizens, including babies and pregnant women during the Gukurahundi massacres in the Midlands and Matabeleland regions in the early and mid-1980s, as well as the killing of opposition supporters since 2000, Murambatsvina in 2005 and 2008 murders, the talk of a new dispensation must be shelved, if not abandoned, until a fresh democratic ethos takes precedence.
No amount of propaganda or vitriol to suffocate the democratic space can justify the rapid corrosion of modernisation attempts in a country that has effectively degenerated from a police state to a fully-fledged military state. Who would have thought that a people could win independence but lose freedom?
Who can vouch for judicial independence when Mnangagwa is openly bragging that he facilitated the release of MDC Alliance principal Tendai Biti? Writing on social media, Mnangagwa said: “Tendai Biti was released today following my intervention. At such a crucial time in the history of Zimbabwe, nothing is more important than unity, peace and dialogue.”
While Mnangagwa sought to cheaply adorn himself with the robes of a hero, his assertion attracted a barrage of criticism, and understandably so. His scandalous words could not go uncensured.
Biti, after all, was rescued from marauding state agents by a heroic group of ordinary Zimbabwean cross-border shoppers at Chirundu border post. Besides, he does not need Mnangagwa’s assistance, for the simple reason that he has not committed a crime. If the judicial system is this prone to manipulation, who can really assure us that court cases are handled impartially?
Think about it. Considering that the MDC Alliance has filed a Constitutional Court petition challenging his declared victory in the July 30 presidential elections, will Mnangagwa again use his political muscle to predetermine the outcome? This exposes a vicious African malady, whereby the powerful elite maintains an illegitimate grip on every crucial arm of government to unduly influence public affairs — to the detriment of the national interest. This is true of Zimbabwe where the state media is captured by illegitimate elements who make it their business to spew outlandish propaganda against anyone who refuses to kowtow to the official line.
How on earth, for instance, does a state-controlled newspaper claim that the August 1 massacre of unarmed civilians was justifiable? Have they not seen the videos, the photographs, the first-hand accounts, the live streaming of daylight murder by foreign and local journalists? And how on earth do these state-run papers tell the public that “rogue” soldiers are wielding AK47 assault rifles, driving armoured personnel carriers and flying helicopters.
‘Look East’ Policy default mode
As the country’s political circus unfolds, Muckraker is convinced that after the United States signed the new-look Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act into law last week, and with the European Union, as well as Australia, condemning Zimbabwe’s skewed democracy, the thinly-disguised military government in Harare facing a legitimacy crisis will make much noise and start fooling everyone to “look East” — Zimbabwe’s all-weather friends.
Expecting an inflow of investment into the country remains a pipedream for now, especially without change on a tattered human rights record. Despite spirited efforts to present Britain as the nation’s hope, it would be foolhardy for investors to parade themselves with a country tainted by human rights abuses. It seems almost inevitable that the “Look East” dogma is inevitably clawing its way back. With this “black market philosophy” of gambling and avoiding doing things the legitimate way, Zimbabweans should brace for more impoverishment and economic suffering.