A leaked report following a Joint Operations Command (JOC) meeting of August 10 is alarming to say the least.
Editor’s Memo: Alfonce Mbizwo
The report shows Zimbabwe’s dangerous drift under President Emmerson Mnangagwa towards totalitarianism, with security agents now actively policing critics on social media while those in foreign lands are being put under the microscope.
Former security agents now living abroad, journalists, labour unionists, opposition and social justice activists are targets of the widening spy network and monitoring by the Ferrets, which according to reports are a 2,000 strong unit within the army’s special forces.
And these are apparently not enough; the JOC wants the security agents to recruit more spies to widen their network, especially those close to their targets.
The scale of the operation and planned attacks on perceived enemies of Mnangagwa is frightening and shows a regime not only intolerant to criticism but one that is not keen on the wider world to know about its dirty linen and the skeletons it is trying to keep hidden.
Human rights groups say abuses have worsened under Mnangagwa while attacks on journalists are on the rise.
He denies this. “There is no crisis in the country,” goes the official refrain. Or, going by Mnangagwa’s morning address of August 4,there are just a few “bad apples” that have attempted to divide the people and “undermine” his rule.
Except that most of those spilling the dark secrets were once part of the system who now want the world to know of its dark deeds and that the so-called Second Republic has drifted dangerously in the last two years and is in the grip of an unimaginable crisis. It is also telling that the regime is unabashed about its use of the justice system to sanitise its brazen attacks on the perceived opponents.
The arrests of journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume ahead of the aborted July 31 protests were also part of the “successful” clampdown on dissent, according to the JOC report.
A regime that has arrested and tortured journalists, a leading novelist in Tsitsi Dangarembga, opposition legislators and activists and manipulates the courts to sanitise its actions is in dangerous dictator territory and on the path to a failed state.
And yet it all started with hope, hope that the departure from the political scene of longtime ruler Robert Mugabe would usher in a new beginning for a country that is yet to enjoy a sustained period of domestic peace, without the toxic internal politics.
It would be refreshing if the government would actually put similar energy and resources into fixing the mess in the economy and key sectors such as health and education.
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