The Stream

Are Zimbabweans being silenced?

Political opposition and civil society activists face arrest and detention as economic crisis deepens.

On Wednesday, August 19 at 19:30 GMT:
Zimbabwe’s government is struggling to handle an ever-deepening economic crisis that has lately been exacerbated by the impact of coronavirus. But as criticism of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s leadership grows, security forces are cracking down on political opposition and civil society voices.

Jacob Ngarivhume, a leader of the opposition Transform Zimbabwe party who called for people to join anti-corruption protests against the ruling ZANU-PF party on July 31, is among those being held in prison on charges of inciting violence. Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, who recently exposed corruption within the health ministry, faces similar charges and has been denied bail. Tsitsi Dangarembga, an internationally-acclaimed author, was arrested on the day of the anti-corruption demonstrations and later released on bail.

With security agencies showing little tolerance for public dissent, people across Zimbabwe have taken their protest against the government online. #ZimbabweanLivesMatter recently topped the ranks of Twitter’s trending topics, amplified by support from celebrities and political leaders around the world.

But while online activism has put Zimbabwe’s government under the spotlight, opponents from the Movement for Democratic Change say regulations ostensibly put in place to check the spread of novel coronavirus are now being weaponised by authorities to counter public dissent. More than 100,000 people have been arrested by police for violating public health rules. 

Mnangagwa has rejected the criticism of Zimbabwe’s security forces and says “perennial detractors” both regionally and internationally are trying to undermine the government. But human rights groups say Mnangagwa’s government is repressive and bears parallels with that of former leader Robert Mugabe.

As Zimbabwe’s problems intensify, The Stream will hear from both sides of the divide. Join the conversation.

On this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Fadzayi Mahere, @advocatemahere
National Spokesperson, MDC Alliance

Tafadzwa Mugwadi, @TafadzwaMugwadi
Director of Information and Publicity, ZANU-PF

Dewa Mavhinga, @dewamavhinga
Southern Africa Director, Human Rights Watch

Read more:
Catholic bishops accuse Zimbabwe government of rights abuses – Al Jazeera