By Staff Reporter
LAST November saw President Emmerson Mnangagwa marking his four years as Zimbabwe’s leader following the removal of the now late Robert Mugabe from office in a military-led coup in November 2017.
At his swearing-in ceremony in November 2017, Mnangagwa pledged; “My government will work towards ensuring that the pillars of the state, assuring democracy in our land are strengthened and respected.”
He added: “My goal is to preside over a polity and run an administration that recognises strength in our diversity as a people, hoping that this position and well-meant stance will be reciprocated and radiated to cover all our groups, organisations and communities…”
However, reflecting Mnangagwa’s four-year reign, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) has released a report, which notes that it was now clear these promises made by Mnangagwa in November 2017, were insincere.
“It is now clear these promises were not sincere because four years later, there is sustained intolerance for dissent, opposition political activity, and human rights work as evidenced by the cases documented by the Zimbabwe Peace Project not just this November, but throughout the year,” it said.
The ZPP is a human rights organisation that monitors and documents politically motivated human rights violations in Zimbabwe.
However, in its November monthly report, the ZPP said between November 2017, when Mnangagwa became Zimbabwe’s president, and last month, the organisation had recorded a total of 9 345 human rights violations.
“And in all this, state security agents, and officials or members of the ruling Zanu PF have been the major perpetrators. The violations include killings, abductions, torture, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions, and harassment and intimidation, among others and these have largely targeted opposition activists, government critics, and human rights activists.”
The ZPP noted over the past four years under Mnangagwa, there had been a systematic, gradual, and deliberate erosion of democratic principles.
“Between November 2020 and November 2021, there was an acceleration of the pace, and this is most likely because election year is drawing closer and the ruling party, whose officials have proclaimed they will not accept an election defeat, are ring-fencing themselves through various strategies”.
According to the ZPP, the highlights of the fourth year of Mnangagwa’s reign was the fast-tracking of the amendment of the country’s Constitution to give him more power and to undermine the role of the Judiciary and the Legislature.
“Through the amendment, President Mnangagwa now has the powers to appoint judges without them having to go through a public interview process. Armed with Constitutional Amendment Number 2, President Mnangagwa now wields more power, and the role of the two other arms of government has been diminished.
“Parliament had already been weakened by the 2020 recalls of legislators and throughout the entire 2021, by-elections remained banned and Parliament and local authorities had to operate without 28 MPs and 105 councillors.”
The ZPP said Mnangagwa’s second highlight was the reappointment of Chief Justice Luke Malaba as the Chief Justice despite him having reached the age of retirement.
“With a weak judiciary, Malaba won against the court challenges mounted by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum. Currently, there is a fervent push to enact the PVO (Private Voluntary Organisation) Amendment Bill, which, if passed, will suppress, strictly regulate and choke the valuable work of civil society organisations.
“This is in direct contradiction to Mnangagwa’s pledge that his government was going to work towards ensuring that the pillars of the state assuring democracy in our land are strengthened and respected.
“The reality is that President Mnangagwa’s government has trampled on those very pillars. Food and other aid continue to be used as tools for coercion and ZPP recorded 359 cases of discrimination of people during aid distribution.”
The ZPP said the discrimination was widespread in especially in rural communities where villagers rely on aid, and Zanu PF used its influence in government to influence the determination of who gets or does not get aid.
“Those who choose not to support the party or participate in its activities are left out. The goal is to intimidate, isolate, weaken and impoverish members of the community who have the courage to assert their Constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of association and assembly. Zanu PF has used this strategy across the country and each month, ZPP recorded an average of 30 such cases.
“Just as the last November, the cases rise this month when government avails inputs under the Presidential and Pfumvudza schemes. Equitable distribution of aid regardless of people’s diverse political affiliation is a hallmark of the recognition of the ‘strength in our diversity’ that President Mnangagwa spoke about when he was sworn in, in 2017. In that regard, his government has failed citizens who pinned a lot of hope on the government.”