Zimbabwe's president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has appealed for national unity against what he called "evil" and "dark forces." In a televised address Tuesday the president blamed opposition groups, who he described as "terrorists" working with outsiders, for destabilizing Zimbabwe's economy. The comments come days after he ordered troops to stop anti-government protests over poverty and corruption.
In a surprise address broadcast from the State House, President Emmerson Mnangagwa called for unity and patience among Zimbabweans as he deals with “detractors” who he said are derailing his efforts to turn around the economy, which has struggled for more than two decades.
He said opposition elements, economic sanctions, cyclones, drought and, most recently, the deadly COVID-19 pandemic were affecting progress toward Zimbabwe’s economic recovery.
“Added to this economic aggression, local currency manipulation and detractors who fear the inevitable imminent success of our reforms," said Mnangagwa. "Although our progress has been slowed down, rest assured that we shall achieve our objectives. We will defeat the attack and bleeding on our economy. We will overcome attempts of destabilization of our society by a few rogue Zimbabweans acting in league with foreign detractors. Those who promote hate, and disharmony will never win.”
Alexander Rusero is a former international relations and security studies lecturer at Harare Polytechnic College. He says Mnangagwa was “ill advised” to address the nation Tuesday.
“It (the speech) ill timely given the circumstances at hand. It looks like the president was bulking to pressure following the surprising trend of the hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter which has seen almost all people on social media converge at global level raising concerns of human rights abuses," said Rusero. "So there was really nothing to take away from that state of the nation address because there was absolutely nothing to look into.”
Makomborero Haruzivishe is one of 14 political activists wanted by police in connection with anti-government protests that were planned for last Friday but stopped by a heavy police and army presence in the streets of Harare.
Speaking to VOA by phone from an undisclosed location, he noted that Mnangagwa’s speech was silent on gross human rights abuses and corruption in Zimbabwe.
“He is only seeing shadows," said Haruzivishe. "He just was sweeping over critical issues, issues to do with accountability and transparency. But we will not allow Emmerson Mnangagwa to use the coronavirus pandemic to quarantine our rights, to quarantine our future, quarantine our freedom. That will never happen. Peace unites Zimbabweans. Development unites Zimbabweans.”
Haruzivishe accused the president of subverting the constitution and said activists will continue to tweet #ZimbabweanLivesMatter to, in his words, “reclaim the democratic space which has been lost” under Mnangagwa’s rule.
Upon taking power with the help of the military in 2017, Mnangagwa said he would not rule the country with an iron fist like former president Robert Mugabe. But his critics say he seems to be sliding into the dictatorship of his predecessor.