Zimbabwe gathering pace on rocky road to perdition

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As Zimbabwe marks the anniversary on Monday of Emmerson Mnangagwa’s first year as its elected president, recent developments in the troubled nation suggest it is on the road to disaster rather than recovery.

The southern African country’s first leader since former president Robert Mugabe was forced from office in 2017 had promised his compatriots a “brighter future” following his disputed victory in the 2018 general election.

New economic policies that open the country up to foreign investment would be vigorously pursued and democracy would be deepened under his Zanu-PF-led administration, he said, at his swearing-in ceremony in Harare on August 26th last year.

“The Zimbabwe we want is a shared one that transcends party lines,” he insisted.

However, few people could have imagined his promise to strengthen citizens’ participation in the affairs of the state would involve banning anti-government protests, which his administration did this month in the cities of Harare, Bulawayo and Gweru.

After the Gweru protest was outlawed on August 16th, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) vice president Tendai Biti tweeted the regime’s actions were “effectively banning the MDC and suspending the constitution”.

The MDC also claimed that dozens of activists had been rounded up and beaten by security forces ahead of each of the planned protests.

The crackdown on activism also prompted the EU’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Timo Olkkonen, to warn Mnangagwa that the union’s continued support to the country hinged on his government upholding the rule of law.

“Zimbabwe must genuinely show it has clearly broken from the past,” he said in reference to the dictatorial rule deployed by Mugabe during his near four-decade reign.