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Mnangagwa Calls for Dialogue in Zimbabwe After Violent Protests, Army Killings

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, left, arrives at Robert Mugabe International Airport in Harare, Zimbabwe, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, left, arrives at Robert Mugabe International Airport in Harare, Zimbabwe, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has called for dialogue among political stakeholders in Zimbabwe amid reports that state security agents raided a safe house for people allegedly beaten up by soldiers and police during and after nationwide protests that left at least 12 dead, hundreds injured and about 600 locked up.

Mnangagwa, who cut short his four-nation European tour and returned home Monday night, also took a swipe at the Zimbabwe Defence Forces for their heavy-handed on handling protests while Vice President Retired General Constantino Chiwenga was acting president.

He made the appeal for dialogue in a tweet as state security agents were raiding a safe house for victims of political violence in Harare.

“I invite leaders of all political parties as well as religious and civil leaders to set aside our differences and come together. What unites us is stronger than what could ever divide us. Let’s begin a national dialogue. Let’s put the economy first. Let’s put the people first.”

Mnangagwa’s announcement of fuel price hikes of up to 150% sparked the protests that led to skirmishes between the police and protesters led by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Pastor Evan Mawarire’s #ThisFlag Campaign and several other organizations.

He said in a tweet, “One week ago, I announced measures to stabilise our nation’s crucial fuel supply. I was aware that these measures may not be popular, and this was not a decision we took lightly. But it was the right thing to do. What followed was regrettable and tragic. Everyone has the right to protest, but this was not a peaceful protest. Wanton violence and cynical destruction; looting police stations, stealing guns and uniforms; incitement and threats of violence. This is not the Zimbabwean way.

“Likewise, violence or misconduct by our security forces is unacceptable and a betrayal of the new Zimbabwe. Chaos and insubordination will not be tolerated. Misconduct will be investigated. If required, heads will roll.”

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, United Nations, Britain, United States of America and other nations have condemned the crackdown on protesters, who allegedly killed a policeman, ransacked some shops, set private and public vehicles on fire and overran a police station.

The Movement for Democratic Change led by Nelson Chamisa is now calling for the impeachment of President Mnangagwa for human rights abuses, saying most of its top officials and party members are targeted by state security agents during the crackdown.

Some of the arrested MDC lawmakers who are facing charges of inciting violence include Settlement Chiminya, Amos Chibaya and Livingstone Chimina.

Chamisa said Mnangagwa should confine soldiers to the barracks and stop talking without taking the necessary measures to restore peace in Zimbabwe.

“We continue to mourn our lost relatives and empathise with the wounded and displaced fellow citizens. Our solution to the crisis requires sincerity, honesty and compassion for those we lead. It is not about lofty words or wordplay unsupported by conduct on the ground,” said Chamisa in a tweet.