Zimbabwe: the hardship of the opposition after Emmerson Mnangagwa’s re-election

In the wake of the match with Harare Dynamos, interrupted by fans invading the pitch and police intervention, Zimbabwean MP Gift Ostallos Sizib was arrested for inciting violence in mid-September.

According to the opposition, this is yet another example of a series of whimsically-motivated prosecutions aimed at silencing the opposition, following the controversial victory at the end of August of outgoing President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zanu-PF, the party in power since independence in 1980.

According to the main opposition party, the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC), a dozen of its members, including MPs and local councillors, have been arrested since the elections. The pre-election period had also seen its share of arrests and intimidation. These prosecutions « are fabricated, politically motivated and unfounded », CCC spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi told AFP.

Zanu-PF has long been accused by human rights organizations of, among other things, using judicial harassment of the opposition to stifle any form of protest. Police spokesman Paul Nyathi denies any campaign against the opposition, explaining that he is merely « following procedure » in the event of infractions. The government, for its part, did not respond to AFP’s enquiries about the arrests.

International observers judged the poll to be « non-compliant », highlighting « serious problems » affecting the « transparency » of the election, which saw Emmerson Mnangagwa win with 52.6% of the vote, against 44% for CCC candidate Nelson Chamisa. The CCC described the whole process as « chaotic and null », and called for a new ballot.

Depuis, plusieurs de ses membres ont connu de graves problèmes. Début septembre, Womberaishe Nhende, tout juste élu conseiller CCC dans un district de Harare, et l’un de ses proches ont été enlevés, torturés et laissés nus près d’une rivière à 70 km de là. Leurs avocats ont ensuite été arrêtés pour obstruction à la justice.

Nicole Beardsworth, researcher and professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, does not rule out the possibility that Zanu-PF is using the current crackdown to convict opposition MPs and win their constituencies in by-elections.

Several SADC countries have congratulated Mnangagwa on his re-election, and the president of South Africa’s regional powerhouse, Cyril Ramaphosa, called on Tuesday for the lifting of Western sanctions against Zimbabwe during his address to the UN General Assembly.

For Mr. Mavedzenge, the arrests of CCC activists are not necessarily part of a concerted plan of intimidation, but could simply be the work of « overzealous » police officers anxious to prove their loyalty to the president and his party.

Keneth Ononga

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