Farcical And Surreal’ – Zimbabwe Vigil Diary: 13th June 2020
14 June 2020
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Farcical and surreal – like a poorly scripted Mr Bean film without the comedy’ was how MDC Vice-President Tendai Biti described his arrest with other party leaders last week for trying to enter their headquarters, which had been taken over by security forces in the name of a rival faction.

Even more surreal was the re-arrest of the three young MDC women, now charged with lying about being abducted and tortured by government agents – condemned by UN human rights experts who demanded to be allowed to visit Zimbabwe to assess the situation.

In the middle of all this came a bizarre news conference called by the National Security Council at which the heads of the army, police and prisons, along with the commanders of the air force and the intelligence agency, denied rumours of planning a coup against Mnangagwa.

Experience suggests that such a denial by the top brass is a sure indication that something really is up – not surprising as the country is fast running out of money and may soon have difficulty paying police and troops.

Finance Minister Ncube and Reserve Bank Governor Mangudya were summoned to a politburo meeting to account for the financial chaos. Ncube, whose policies have run into strong criticism, is said to have protested that he is not a magician (see: https://www.theindependent.co.zw/2020/06/12/im-no-magician-ncube-to-zanu-pf/).

Meanwhile, Biti, himself a former finance minister, has written to the World Bank welcoming assistance to Zimbabwe but warning that money must not go through the government and ‘further enrich or entrench the very people who have destroyed our economy and democracy’. (See: https://bulawayo24.com/opinion/letters/186896).

Earlier, in an account of his arrest, he said he and his companions were accused of criminal nuisance and violating lockdown regulations by singing a song on Nelson Mandela Avenue. They were held overnight in a squalid cell without blankets or a mat to sleep on before being released on bail.

‘We were relieved because, despite our terrible experience, we were the lucky ones. Many have died. Many have been tortured. And many are fearful they will become victims of this dysfunctional, anti-democratic state.’ (See: https://africanarguments.org/2020/06/09/tendai-biti-the-story-of-my-arrest-in-mnangagwa-tinpot-zimbabwe/).

Against this background, when Mnangagwa took to the airways to announce an easing of the lockdown, the Vigil was not convinced when he said it would allow the government to continue its ‘reform’ agenda and promote freedom of assembly and freedom to vote in free and fair elections (see: https://www.herald.co.zw/president-calls-zimbabwe-to-action/).

Confidence in the government has been further eroded after it was forced to cancel multi-million dollar deals linked to one of Mnangagwa’s sons following the exposure of overpricing of Covid-19 medical equipment and drugs. Zimlive says Mnangagwa’s three sons with his current wife Auxillia live an opulent lifestyle: ‘Their driveways are so full with luxury cars, one source said, their mother often drives away in frustration when failing to park inside.