By Kingston Ndabatei
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa is losing his grip on power less than two years after taking power in November 2017 in a military assisted transition, human rights watchdog Amnesty International (AI) has said.
In a report titled ‘Open for business but closed for dissent’, AI said the deployment of the military last month in the aftermath of violent protests organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) was illegal.
“President Mnangagwa’s tenure has been plagued by a cloud of fear arising from the actions of the security forces and factionalism within the Zanu PF raising questions about dual centres of power resulting in contradictory messaging from the government and ultimately paralysis in addressing gross human rights violations.”
The global rights body said fear is now pervading the country with the military flexing its muscle as kingmakers given the role it played in Mnangagwa’s rise to power.
“The fear is compounded by the increasing influence of the military. Growing signs of the army’s influence is also evident with the muted or compliant response by President Mnangagwa and his advisors to the army’s repressive response to public protests.”
The group said at least 12 people died at the hands of the military after a brutal crackdown the followed the protests.
AI said it had also received numerous reports of rape and torture in contravention of international law urging Mnangagwa to investigate these as well as call the army to order.
However, Mnangagwa in an interview with French news channel, France24, said the reaction by the military was warranted given the violent nature of the protests.
“We are challenging anyone local or foreign to bring produce the women who are said to have been violated. We only have one case thus far that has been reported in Chitungwiza,” he said.
“This is not to say the army did not overstep its mandate. But most of these women have only been paraded on social media.
“We have publicly pleaded for them to report these cases to police and, if they are not comfortable, they can report at their nearest church.”
The Zimbabwean leader argued the protests had been well coordinated and funded.
“We have since realised that these reports were well coordinated with clear instructions of who would go where in the event they are injured in the protests, if they were arrested legal representation was readily available.
“This was communicated well before the well-oiled and well-funded demonstrations,” said Mnangagwa.
Amnesty said most of the people who had been treated by human rights doctors had gunshot wounds as well as other injuries consistent with blunt and sharp instruments.
“In all the cases analysed by Amnesty International, none of the people shot at or injured posed any imminent threat to the security forces. Some were shot from behind, while there were cases of bystanders who got shot as they watched the mayhem unfolding,” added the report.
In August last year six people were killed after the military opened fire on protestors demanding the release of presidential election results forcing Mnangagwa to appoint a Commission of Inquiry chaired by former South African President Kgalema Mothlante.