PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa administration’s intransigence towards overtures by the African Union (AU) and various civic organisations to urgently address Zimbabwe’s drawn out political and economic crisis further threatens to push the troubled country to the tipping point.
With Zimbabwe buffeted by severe economic headwinds, worsened by Covid-19-induced pressures, Harare spurned efforts by the continental body, church organisations and the civic society to urgently resolve the multifaceted crisis which has deepened as a result of the country’s chequered human rights record.
Calls by the AU and the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference for authorities to address Zimbabwe’s deep-seated challenges, which attracted a stinging criticism from government, come at a time Mnangagwa is facing mounting pressure for his brutish approach towards dealing with dissent.
The arrest of prominent journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and opposition activist Jacob Ngarivhume for supporting a recent anti public corruption protest, which was heavy-handedly thwarted by government, has triggered an avalanche of criticism against Mnangagwa’s administration.
Amid Harare’s denial of the worsening human rights and economic crisis, a campaign dubbed #ZimbabweanLivesMatter has been endorsed across the globe, with Mnangagwa’s cornered administration dismissing it as a Western fronted regime change agenda, largely sponsored by the British.
Last week, AU chairperson and South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa dispatched three envoys to Zimbabwe, to gain an understanding of Harare’s deepening crisis.
Foreign Affairs minister, Sibusiso Moyo, writing to the AU, dismissed the continental bloc for being arm-twisted by Britain ostensibly in pursuit for its neo imperialistic agenda in the affairs of its former colony. But, with a tanking economy characterised by galloping inflation which stood at 837,5% as of July, widespread company closures coupled with a brutal crackdown against government’s opponents, critics have blamed Harare for burying its head in the sand while the country burns.
Wrote Moyo to the AU: “I write to express my surprise and concern over the statement issued in your name on August 7,concerning the situation in Zimbabwe which appears to lend credence to the raft of erroneous and misleading reports circulating on a variety of social media platforms deliberately placed so as to cause embarrassment to my country and its leadership.
“Let me stress, at the outset, that there is no crisis in Zimbabwe, neither are there any human rights violations as purported in your statement.”
Equally, the pastoral letter by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop Conference, which admonished Mnangagwa’s administration to address dire human rights violations in the country, was countered by vehement criticism by information minister Monica Mutsvangwa who described the bishops as genocidal and evil-minded.
Mutsvangwa also attacked ZCBC president Archbishop Charles Ndlovu, personally describing him as an agent of the West, seeking to unseat government.
In an acerbic tone, Mutsvangwa wrote: “Its (pastoral letter) evil message reeks with all the vice that have perennially hobbled the progress of Africa. It trumpets petty tribal feuds and narrow regionalist agenda.
“That he (Ndlovu) hopes to sow seeds of internecine strife as a prelude to civil war and national disunity.”
Mnangagwa, mimicking the denialism of his predecessor long time ruler Robert Mugabe who, with futility, tried to shift blame to sanctions and the West for his own misrule, appears to have forgotten nothing and learnt nothing judging by his intransigence towards overtures by the international community to resolve Zimbabwe’s long-standing crisis.
Mugabe, during his near four decade in power, notoriously became unpopular for shifting blame on his perceived Western opponents while turning a blind eye on his gross incompetence, high-level corruption and brutality which plunged Zimbabwe into the abyss, and further isolated the country.
Ironically, Mugabe was booted out of power by Mnangagwa through a military coup on accusations of harbouring corrupt officials.
Critics contend that Mnangagwa, who served Mugabe for 37 years in government, was merely deflecting attention to imaginary enemies, while attempting to mask his glaring misdeeds.
Botswana University politics lecturer Kebapetse Lotshwao said faced with mounting criticism and a worsening crisis, it was hardly surprising that Mnangagwa, a long time Mugabe protege, was behaving like his predecessor at the expense of the crisis-torn country.
“Obviously, the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe is bound to deepen, with dire consequences for the average person and indeed neighbouring countries,” Lotshwao said. “In my view, Mnangagwa was never the right person to replace Robert Mugabe simply because he is not a reformer, but a member of the old guard responsible for many of the problems affecting Zimbabwe. So, progress will only come under an untainted reformer who enjoys acceptance of most stakeholders within the Zimbabwean polity.”
The Botswana opposition party has also castigated Mnangagwa’s administration for fuelling Zimbabwe’s crisis, through human rights violations and rampant corruption.
South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), led by Julius Malema, has also excoriated Mnangagwa’s leadership going as far as calling him “a pig that is eating his children”.
Ironically, Mnangagwa has disregarded all the advice, blaming all his critics for fronting an illegal regime change agenda in Zimbabwe at the behest of the West.
For its part, the West has implored Mnangagwa’s administration to roll out sweeping political and economic reforms to reset relations with the international community under the re-engagement agenda.
South Africa-based political analyst Mike Mavura noted that Mnangagwa’s denialism, aided by Sadc’s failure to reprimand Harare over its rampant human rights violations would further isolate Zimbabwe
“Sadc continues to see no evil and hear no evil, an indictment of how out of touch the regional governing body is to the reality on the ground. Mnangagwa’s government continues on its slash and burn policy, any person, any institution, any organisation that voices concern or critique is branded as an enemy. Some are branded outright evil or dark forces,” Mavura said. “The net impact is isolationism, the regime is running out of friends and making enemies out of everyone and it is not easy to understand the logic or perceived pay off of this policy when we have been told the second republic foreign policy is about re-engagement. An iron fist approach from the regime only results in further loss of legitimacy and isolation.”