Sporadic acts of violence in Zimbabwe in the past few months threaten to derail efforts to woo investors and rebuild a united nation.
The country witnessed post-election violence in August 2018, which resulted in the death of six people, injury of at least 35 people and widespread damage of property after opposition MDC Alliance supporters went on the streets and unleashed an orgy of violence in protest against the supposed delay in announcement of national presidential election results.
Emmerson Mnangagwa narrowly won the presidential election, beating his main rival and leader of the MDC Alliance Nelson Chamisa who together with his party, continues to refuse to accept Mnangagwa’s victory.
Mnangagwa set up a seven-member Commission of Inquiry chaired by former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe to investigate the violence and it presented its report to him last November.
Mnangagwa released the report’s findings and recommendations to the public in December last year and it was noted in the report that the violent demonstrations were pre-planned and well orchestrated by the MDC Alliance. The demonstrations were also not sanctioned by the police.
The report noted that Zimbabwe’s military used disproportionate force in quelling the post-election violence, noting that the death of the six people and injury of 35 people in the violence “arose from the actions of the military and police”.
The Commission also found that fake, fabricated and biased news on social media contributed to the violence.
The report recommended compensation to all the affected victims and dependents and urgent availing of medical support to all the injured, as well as dialogue among political parties to foster unity and move the country forward.
While the nation was still waiting for implementation of the inquiry recommendations, another episode of violence occurred in the country last week, this time starting as a mass stay away called by main labor body against high fuel prices but later turning violent, resulting in the death of yet another three people and massive destruction of property.
Yet again, the government put the blame on the MDC Alliance which it accuses of trying to unseat the government of Mnangagwa or force its way into a coalition government.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba said the MDC Alliance should stop claiming that the orgy of violence it unleashed last week is related to the fuel price review, and should expect to be held fully accountable for loss of life, injuries and damage of property stemming from its illegal actions.
“It is a false narrative to suggest a causal link between the fuel price review and the violence unleashed in the streets by the MDC and its allies.
“For over a month-and-a half, the MDC leadership has been consistently pushing out the message that they will use violent street action to overturn the results of the ballot, or failing that, to force a government of national unity. This in itself puts paid to any reading that links the fuel price review to the violence,” Charamba said.
Mnangagwa announced the hiking of fuel prices by more than 100 percent mid January to try and address shortages of the commodity in the country.
Police have since arrested at least 700 people, including activist pastor Evan Mawarire for the violent protests. Several MDC Alliance officials have also been arrested.
As life is slowly returning to normal in the country despite a shutdown of the social media by the government, threats are emerging of another round of violent protests planned by the MDC Alliance this week .
Home Affairs minister Cain Mathema says the government is ready to deal with any unlawful demonstrations and on Monday urged Zimbabweans to go about their normal businesses undisturbed.
“As the Ministry of Home Affairs, we want to reassure the public that we will not hesitate to enforce the law today, tomorrow, or in the next 100 years. We want to make sure that every Zimbabwean enjoys the peace and freedom we have in the country because Zimbabwe belongs to all Zimbabweans,” Mathema said.
In the meantime, Mnangagwa, who was on a four-nation tour of Eastern Europe since Jan. 14, on Sunday cancelled his scheduled trip to Davos, Switzerland from Jan. 22 – 25 and will return home to deal with rising tensions back home.
Zimbabwe will now be represented by finance minister Mthuli Ncube at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“In light of the economic situation, I will be returning home after a highly productive week of bilateral trade and investment meetings. The first priority is to get Zimbabwe calm, stable and working again,” he said on Twitter.
The violence has not only cost many people jobs but sends wrong signals to potential investors and has dented the country’s image, according to industry minister Mangaliso Ndlovu.
“We have a burden of rebranding our country and positioning it where it was. Hundreds of people have lost their jobs due to destruction of business buildings. I am disappointed that Bulawayo (second largest city) was the worst hit by the violent demonstrations. Investors who have plans to bring business in Bulawayo might lose interest now because of hooligans,” he said.
Hotels in the country have also felt the pinch of the protests, saying apart from experiencing losses due to cancellation of bookings, business may remain low in the near future due to security concerns.
“There is still a lot of uncertainty. Safety and security is a key consideration or travelers and organizations just cancel or postpone an activity if they are not sure that they are secure,” said Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe vice-chairperson Clive Chinwada. Enditem