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The Times

While Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa is trying to convince the world that he is making progress since replacing his mentor, former President Robert Mugabe, a number of Zimbabweans in the diaspora do not agree with his assessment of the current situation in the country. 

I have no iota of doubt that most of my readers have, by now, gone through Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Op-Ed (read lies) published by The New York Times on 11 March 2018. This treatise is a direct response to the lies by Mnangagwa who is masquerading as the president of the Republic of Zimbabwe following his illegal and unconstitutional rise to power. For the avoidance of doubt, Zimbabwe never held elections in November 2017 and events that led to dictator Robert Mugabe’s resignation had nothing to do with “freedom, progress and a new way of doing things.” The military did not support the so-called popular, peaceful revolution. It is in the public domain that the military junta initiated Mugabe’s ouster to secure its narrow interests and indeed, its ill-gotten wealth at the expense of the people of Zimbabwe.

Mnangagwa wrote in his article: “There are voices both at home and abroad who have sought to convince the world that nothing has changed in Zimbabwe. I refute those unfair and unfounded claims and commit that we are bringing about a new era of transparency, openness and commitment to the rule of law.” I believe I am one of those voices abroad that are seeking to convince the world that indeed nothing has changed in Zimbabwe. Hear me for my cause dear reader.

Three years have passed since our non-violent change agent, human rights activist and journalist Itai Dzamara disappeared. His wife and children still haven’t heard from him. His family and those of us who were his comrades still expect answers from the authorities. There are other opposition activists such as Patrick Nabanyama who disappeared on account of Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) brutality and violent politics. Many were murdered in cold blood since the infamous Gukurahundi massacres of the early-mid 1980s and during the bloody and violent polls of 2000, 2002 and 2008. The very coup that Mnangagwa wants the world to believe was peaceful had its own casualties, innocent citizens who were brutally murdered for his benefit and that of his military friends. The destroyed property is there for all to see and those who died are known.

The military has usurped the powers of the police and Mnangagwa’s enemies are tortured in army barracks. Nobody has taken and is taking responsibility for these atrocities committed against our people. Is this the change that Mnangagwa is preaching? I would expect members of the diplomatic community to take these accusations seriously instead of hurrying to bed with an administration whose legitimacy is hollow. As a young Zimbabwean wholly committed to the creation of a free, justice and democratic Zimbabwe, I refuse to recognise Mnangagwa as my leader and I further refuse to be part of the kind of society that he represents.

That Mnangagwa wants the world to believe that things have changed just because he is in power illegally and unconstitutionally is our undeserved insult. We can only move forward as a country if these past injustices and atrocities have been addressed. Any suggestion that seeks to ignore these injustices will be tantamount to taking a shortcut to the instauration of democratic values and good governance principles in our polity. Such a move is bound to fail no matter how hard one tries to appeal to the international sphere. These are matters that need to be wholly addressed internally before we can even think of Zimbabwe being open for business, whatever that means.

Zimbabwe will be holding elections in less than six months. Those like me in the diaspora have no say in the manner in which our country is governed. Nobody seems to be concerned about us although I believe I am being disenfranchised from partaking in the government of my country through freely choosing representatives. Zimbabwe’s single national broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Services (ZBC), was Mugabe’s mouthpiece for 37 years and ever since his ouster from power in November last year, it has become Mnangagwa’s. We still have the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). These are pieces of legislation that have been used since the dawn of the new millennium to curtail our freedoms and undermine democratic development in our country.

Transparency, openness and commitment to the rule of law require honesty, reliability and impartiality. There is nothing that suggests that Mnangagwa wants free, fair and credible polls whenever they are held. He has spoken about it but there hasn’t been any corresponding commitment on the ground to demonstrate his commitment to restore constitutional rule in Zimbabwe. Instead, by hook and crook, Mnangagwa seeks to extend his illegal and illegitimate rule by making sure that the electoral playing field is uneven. Now this is not the Zimbabwe that I want. Mnangagwa needs to do more than just talking. Mnangagwa has not done anything to demonstrate that he wants to see our nation move forward. Thus, we still have a “hyena” presiding over the affairs of our nation. As Zimbabwean citizens, we seem to have become goats since our rights continue to be trampled upon by those abusing state institutions such as the military and the courts. My humble request to the world at large is: Please help us to remove the “hyena” from the chair, help us to be truly liberated, help us to truly liberate our country and children.

Although I have sympathised with Emmerson Mnangagwa for his defenceless public bashing by Grace and Robert Mugabe, I, however, reiterate that he is not the right man to move our country forward. Having been in the system for decades, Mnangagwa cannot escape that he is partly to blame for the political Frankenstein that is hanging over our heads today. When it suited him, he engineered Joyce Mujuru’s expulsion, including that of Didymus Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo, among others. Thus, his crocodilian characteristics have stayed with him till now. He is not the kind of leader to have, not in this 21st century! I am sorry to dampen the spirits of those who believe in him as if he were their “messiah”. Mnangagwa is no “messiah” and the earlier people realise this the better!

To our young people and responsible Zimbabwean adults, “Africa does not need leaders who are 75 or 65 years old. We need leaders who are young, vibrant, innovative and who the continent’s youth can relate to” (Graça Machel). Thus, we do not want to bring disgrace on our country by an act of dishonesty and cowardice. Mnangagwa and the military are responsible for our nation’s current state. We should therefore rise to the occasion and strive increasingly to quicken our sense of duty so that we will be able to transmit our country, not only lesser, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us. May God help Zimbabwe! The struggle continues unabated!

* Mutsa Murenje writes from Australia.