Mnangagwa's government: The mask has slipped

Mnangagwa's government: The mask has slipped
Published: 22 August 2019 (111 Views)
In April last year, on these pages, I expressed concern at President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government's obvious fascination with Rwanda and China.

On the face of it, it seemed as if Mnangagwa wanted to learn from Rwanda how a country can be moved from the brink of the abyss to a point where it was seen as an example that other African countries can follow.

My concern, however, was that the Zimbabwean government was not being drawn to Rwanda by the romanticised notion of development and economic growth, but rather by a more sinister agenda, where one party is entrenched in power and all forms of opposition to the government are crushed.

When I wrote the article, Mnangagwa had been in power for about five months and there was still euphoria surrounding his presidency and the fall of his predecessor Robert Mugabe.

Telltale signs were emerging that the new administration, in spite of all its posturing, was averse to criticism and did not take kindly to opposition.

I worried that at the first whiff of a threat to the Zanu PF government's hold on power, the ruling party would revert to default settings, throw away all pretence of being reformers and crush anyone who threatened it.

Well, it is now evident that Mnangagwa and his government managed to pull the wool over our eyes and those of the international community with claims that they were reforming when all they were doing was buying time in the hope they would gain acceptance by even the biggest skeptics.

The events of last Friday in Harare are a clear sign that this government will go to any lengths to stop anyone from demonstrating against it, regardless of what the Constitution says.

The government unleashed police officers on people that were sitting on the ground and evidently not posing any threat to anyone.

If this was an illegal gathering, then the police could have simply shepherded the protesters away, without anyone being savaged with truncheons or being kicked indiscriminately all over the body.

Using violence to disperse the demonstrators is, as one person said in a totally different context, the equivalent of punching yourself in the mouth as you try to pick your nose.

Moving the protesters out of the central business district peacefully would have somewhat helped cement Mnangagwa's credentials as a reformist who deserves another chance and is better than his predecessor.

But now, in spite of all the goodwill he had barely two years ago, comparisons are now being drawn between Mnangagawa and his predecessor, with the less charitable saying the current President is worse than Mugabe.

As The Economist succinctly put it: "When Zimbabweans are expressing nostalgia for Robert Mugabe you know things must be bad."

It is unimaginable that anyone can be worse at governing than Mugabe, but when the economy is tanking, civil liberties are curtailed and democratic space is closed, parallels will be drawn and they will be very unkind to the incumbent.

Every pretence that this government was opening up political space, allowing free expression and association went up in smoke last week, and the mask has truly slipped. In August 2018, when the army was unleashed on civilians, some people generally considered as reasonable were willing to make excuses for the government's excesses and the setting up of a commission of enquiry helped assuage the few that were beginning to ask questions.

Instead of blaming the army and the government for the excesses, blame was shifted to an opposition that was being accused of being over eager and impatient to get into power.

Then the January shootings happened and the number of apologists shrunk quite considerably, but there were some that felt that some force was needed to quell the rampaging protesters.

Never mind that the use of force was disproportionate in both circumstances, excuses were made for Mnangagwa and his administration.

But the administration is a one trick pony, and soon enough blaming the opposition for the violence unleashed on civilians became a tired excuse, and the world began to see beyond the facade.

The international community was quick to condemn the latest crackdown and the alleged abductions that preceded the aborted August 16 protests.

Mnangagwa can rest assured he has squandered all the goodwill he so craved and the world is now watching him with the eyes of a hawk.

The government may continue pawning claims that it is reforming and that it is replacing bad laws with new ones, but the reality is that it will find no buyers.

What Mnangagwa and his government can be doing, in the meantime, is to cancel the two contracts Zimbabwe has with two American lobby firms, as I doubt they will make much headway in having the sanctions removed.

And besides, Zimbabwe needs that money desperately for more important things rather than pointless propaganda.

Zimbabwe is squarely back in the realms of pariah status; no amount of propaganda or sugar coating will extricate us from this mess.

Instead, Mnangagwa should be prioritising the reforms that he promised, entrenching rights such as freedoms of assembly, speech and association.

No matter how unpalatable it is, Mnangagwa has to accept that the opposition is a reality and from time to time they are going to demonstrate against him for one reason or another. Whether he is a success or a failure, there will always be some form of discontent.

Blocking demonstrations will only heighten comparisons with Mugabe and make a mockery of his government's two favourite cliches; new dispensation and second republic.

The idea of going the Rwanda way may be seductive; winning elections with 97% of the vote and barely having any opposition to contend with is quite a tempting prospect, but it is not achievable in Zimbabwe.

- newsday

 0

You May Like These Videos

Comments

There are no comments.

Latest stories

PHOTOS: Job Sikhala becomes an instant internet joke

by Social media | 03 October 2019 | 188 Views

America says it is worried about Zimbabwe

by Mandla Ndlovu | 03 October 2019 | 208 Views

Madinda Ndlovu to be discharged tomorrow

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 145 Views

What are behavioral disorders and how can they be managed?

by Temba Munsaka | 03 October 2019 | 145 Views

Government speaks on Robert Mugabe's body parts

by Mandla Ndlovu | 03 October 2019 | 230 Views

Zacc recovers $100m property from looters

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 141 Views

WATCH: Mnangagwa apologises for destroying Zimbabwe satire

by Mandla Ndlovu | 03 October 2019 | 136 Views

Mphoko's application for release of passport dismissed

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 110 Views

Zanu-PF restructuring exercise begins

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 110 Views

Petrotrade declares $1.5 million dividend

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 94 Views

MSU, Zupco seal bus deal

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 150 Views

Mnangagwa to open ZMF conference

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 119 Views

High Court sets EcoCash hearing date

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 119 Views

Mphoko barred from leaving Zimbabwe

by ZimLive | 03 October 2019 | 119 Views

CIO agents monitor Jonathan Moyo in Kenya

by Mandla Ndlovu | 03 October 2019 | 328 Views

Acie Lumumba targets criminals around Mnangagwa

by Mandla Ndlovu | 03 October 2019 | 286 Views

$100 limit for cash-out transactions

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 215 Views

ANC starts anti-sanctions campaign

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 147 Views

ZESN calls for political parties regulation

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 129 Views

We've no forced labour evidence on Zimbabwe diamonds, says US Embassy

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 141 Views

Ex-ZPC board chairman freed on bail

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 138 Views

Cyber Bill seeks to safeguard citizens

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 111 Views

Cassava launches Vaya tractor services

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 145 Views

MDC Alliance boycott slammed

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 87 Views

10-man Bulawayo Chiefs stun Harare City

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 115 Views

Zimbabwe has a reputational problem, says US

by newzimbabwe | 03 October 2019 | 125 Views

MDC Alliance walk of shame

by Nduduzo Tshuma | 03 October 2019 | 149 Views

MDC councillors want suspension of Cowdray Park projects

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 114 Views

RBZ floats $300m additional TBs

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 108 Views

Teenagers rob soldier

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 123 Views

Duo rape corpse, get death sentence

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 130 Views

Mnangagwa to fly out for the zenith times

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 108 Views

Chamisa's MPs approach court to reverse 5 months allowance garnish

by newzimbabwe | 03 October 2019 | 70 Views

Zimra official forges Customs papers

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 56 Views

Zifa courts two nations for Warriors' friendlies

by Staff reporter | 03 October 2019 | 43 Views