guest column:Joseph E Maniragena

IN 2013, we had good neighbours, a couple who suddenly started having problems in their marriage and would seek our help to solve their issues. They were not really big problems as such, but misunderstandings that most couples face from time to time.

We would sit them down and help them resolve their issues. I am calling them small problems because they were such as the husband not buying flowers for his wife and the husband liking soccer too much and not wanting to spend quality time with the wife.

On the other side, the guy would say that the wife didn’t like his friends and he did not like her friends. I am not calling these small issues for a couple, but when you compare them with big issues that some couples face such as a cheating partner, an abusing partner, these were really small.

One day, we woke up to the sad news that the women left their marital home to live with a younger boyfriend they met at university who could offer her more affection which the first partner could not. They lived together for about three months before things started to go wrong. When we met at a mall, we could tell she was in so much pain because what she believed would be better than the first was not.

This new partner had started abusing her emotionally and physically, he would go and drink with his friends and come home late and would sometimes sleep out. “Can you imagine that one day he came home with a prostitute in our home and when I asked how he could do that to me, I was beaten and told to leave; something my first partner would never do”, she told us in tears.

Whenever I remember the story of our neighbour I always think of Zimbabwe and the event of November 2017; The images of the only Zimbabwe television are still vivid, when the army forced the late former President Robert Mugabe to resign. All of us were happy and joyful that finally Zimbabwe’s woes were about to be over.

When the then Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa returned home from asylum in South Africa, was later sworn in as President, organised election, most of us closed our eyes on the serious irregularities that marred that poll just thinking that peace would come back and rule of law would finally prevail. We hoped that the new President would end violence, including State-sponsored.

Excited about the change and the future we all imagined, we forgot that Mnangagwa had been Mugabe’s companion for more than 35 years. He was part of everything that happened in Zimbabwe and could not dissociate himself from human rights abuses, atrocities committed under Zanu PF reign as well as attacks on opposition leaders and supporters that had become the norm in Zimbabwe. How Zimbabweans were fooled that he could bring about change? Hope for a new dispensation were short-lived.

A few months after assuming power, we saw the new President crisscrossing the world with a scarf in Zimbabwe flag colours, promising that Zimbabwe was now open for business, safe for investors, as well as citizens.

Some Zimbabweans, who had made names overseas, started to return home to help build a new Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, the crocodile as Mnangagwa is affectionately known, resorted to old tactics to silence critics.

A good friend of mine bought a plot last December and was planning to build a vocational training centre for young people so that he could give back to his community, but with the events of late – silencing critics and jailing human rights defenders, he said he had to use his money somewhere else.

The economy has collapsed and it has become difficult for the Finance and Economic Development minister Mthuli Ncube to correct the economy. Instead of dealing with corruption and implementing the much-needed reforms, the government keeps on blaming sanctions for the deteriorating economy.

Many donors have made it clear to the government that without clear reforms and decisive action on human rights, corruption they will not release any funding.

Instead, the government has embarked on terrorising anyone who speaks against it, human rights abuses and corruption. The abduction of three female opposition activists by unidentified State agents is a case in point.

Early last week, the State abducted investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono.

This has attracted international condemnation. Those voices included the European Union and other Western embassies.

Chin’ono has been vocal against corruption and human rights abuse. He recently exposed former Health minister Obadiah Moyo for illegally awarding a multi-million-dollar contract for medical supplies to a company that is linked to the President’s son.

The minister denied the allegations, but Chin’ono revealed without doubt that the First Family was somehow connected to the company. Moyo was recently removed from office after Chin’ono and other activists started an online campaign tagged “Yet Mnangagwa won’t fire him”.

One example of how most of Zimbabweans are so fed-up, a certain Lynne recently wrote on her Twitter account that “it was better if we had allowed Grace Mugabe to take over instead of having Mnangagwa pretending to have changed.”

Who could have thought that Zimbabweans would miss the Mugabes so much?

Ismail Nkomo, who fled Zimbabwe for South Africa after being tortured for supporting an opposition candidate in the last election said that “the shameless regime is still resorting to primitive tactics in this era of social media and then comes back saying Zimbabwe is open for business.”

Others bemoaned the silence of the African National Congress and Southern African Development Community amid gross human rights violations that have been going for long, but the regional body has been mute.

Today many innocent people like Chin’ono are languishing in Zimbabwean prisons for exercising their rights.

It is clear that the celebration that followed Mugabe’s ousting and the new government’s installation were just time wasted as the story of our neighbour who thought the new partner would offer better affection, but ended up finding out that the new partner was worse. Zimbabwean people’s hopes were once again crushed.

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