PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa returned home this week from his tour of four Eurasian nations just in time to find the troubled country mired in a worsening vortex of turmoil.
He had scored some major victories on the investment front — or so he thought.
Great Dyke Investments, a Russo-Zimbabwe joint venture, signed an agreement with the African Export-Import Bank to provide US$192 million funding to commence platinum mining operations at Darwendale.
Alrosa, the world’s biggest diamond mining company, announced that it would commence mining operations in Zimbabwe.
Great Dyke, we were told, had also signed a separate memorandum with the African Financial Corporation on shareholding participation in the project.
Another agreement was signed separately to secure political risks for Russian company VTB Group’s participation in the project.
Present at the signing ceremony were Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mnangagwa.
Ordinarily, these deals, should they be implemented, would be something to write home about.
But in his absence, violent protests, triggered by his decision to increase the price of fuel by 150% just before he embarked on this trip and the bloody military crackdown which ensued, definitely undermined all such seemingly noble acts. A total of 12 people were shot dead while 78 sustained gunshot injuries as police and military responded with brute force.
Human rights defenders and governments around the world have criticised the disproportionate use of force against protesters. There are growing fears that Mnangagwa, who has been promoting himself globally as a latter-day reformist, is nothing but a tinpot despot who will not hesitate to butcher dissenters.
More worryingly, the attacks on fundamental liberties such as freedom of expression and association exhibit government’s deep-seated resentment and shocking lack of respect for such rights in this day and age. The brutal response of the government to dissent is behaviour often associated with a bygone era.
Unfortunately, the government cannot be expected to respect some rights enshrined in the constitution such as the sanctity of property rights and have little regard for all other rights. That is totally unacceptable.
Against this background, Mnangagwa must decide if he wants Zimbabwe to be an outpost of tyranny or a democratic republic that is keen on attracting investment and addressing the extreme poverty caused by 39 years of Zanu PF misrule.
The time has come for this government to realise that there is no substitute for genuine reform. Zimbabweans and indeed the rest of the world community will judge the President on the basis of his actions — and not on account of his hollow, high-flown rhetoric.
When you see the British government — which had emerged as one of the leading support pillars of the Mnangagwa administration after the November 2017 coup — now beginning to openly denounce the destructive actions of this government, then you know the masquerade is nearing the end-game.