Re-engagement is a pipe-dream – rights groups tell ED

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By Thandiwe Garusa

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s re-engagement efforts that he hopes will take Zimbabwe to the family of nations after decades in the cold will remain a pipe-dream unless he addresses his human rights record, a local rights lobby group has said.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights (NGO) Forum director Jestina Mokoko told the launch of a report titled: “The new deception: What has changed” on Tuesday, that the human rights situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated to lower levels than what it was before Mnangagwa took over from his predecessor Robert Mugabe.

“With a human rights record of this nature, we are worried about whether re-engagement will become a reality or just remains a mantra that we are open for business but definitely not open for business,” said Mukoko.

She said the report based on empirical evidence showed little has changed or if anything Mnangagwa is worse than Mugabe.

“The report that is before us in words, images, figures and facts, shows there is nothing new in relation to the new dispensation, we are still fighting the same struggles against impunity and at this stage if not worst.

“If we say Zimbabwe is open for business, we also call for human dignity first, what kind of business happens when our citizens are being abducted because they have spoken against violence or they have demonstrated a view that is different from a status quo,” she said.

Mnangagwa has adopted the mantra, Zimbabwe is open for business since taking over from Mugabe on the back of a military coup in November 2017 and then winning last year’s polls somewhat controversially.

According to the report, Mnangagwa’s administration has a “greater tendency to employ violence at a bigger scale on the citizenry” than before.

Since taking over, Mnangagwa has deployed the army twice with deadly results leading to the death of over 20 people. In August last year the military killed six people and injured hordes of other after protests broke out over delays in presidential election results announcements. After the announcement of a 150% fuel price hike this year, riots broke out forcing Mnangagwa to deploy the army again leaving 17 people dead.

Nobody has been brought to book over the killings since then.