Zimbabwe’s chances of re-engaging with some of the world’s biggest economies are fast fading away after the latest wave of human rights abuses by government security organs which according to civil society organisations has left at least 12 people dead and dozens others injured.
Following the resignation of former president Robert Mugabe in 2017 after a soft coup led by the army, the world had given Zimbabwe under the leadership of President Emmerson Mnangagwa the benefit of doubt.
Mugabe’s rule was characterised by repression and human rights abuses, which had seen members of the opposition murdered, maimed and harassed. These abuses brought Zimbabwe at loggerheads with the international community.
Coupled with violent land grabs in the early 2000s, this led to western countries imposing economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, effectively making the country a pariah State.
However, following Mugabe’s departure, Mnangagwa had vowed to do away with Mugabe’s policies, hence take on a softer approach in a bid to re-engage with other countries, riding on his mantra ‘Zimbabwe is open for business.’
With the perceived new trajectory, Zimbabwe had hoped the international community would remove the economic embargo, open new lines of credit and readmit the country into the Commonwealth.
However, some western countries had set conditions for these issues to be addressed, among them that the country conducts free and fair elections, observe the rule of law and improve the human rights record.
While Mnangagwa through his speeches has been making commitments to walk the path, his administration’s actions on the ground have betrayed him.
Analysts believe his efforts for re-engagement are going to waste following a trail of human rights abuses that came in the aftermath of the July 30, 2018 harmonised elections.
The army shot dead at least six civilians during the August 1, 2018, protests. This has been superseded by events of last week, where at least 12 people reportedly died during a three-day stay-away called for by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.
Mnangagwa is out of the country on a four-nation tour in a bid to cut a few economic deals and lure investment. He is expected to wind his tour at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, which starts on 22nd to 25th this week, where several business persons and world leaders meet to discuss global business issues.
He had wanted to use this opportunity in his re-engagement efforts to lure more investors into the country.
Some believe his attendance at this prestigious event is a futile exercise considering events taking place in the country, where Internet has been forcibly shut down, more than once in a week.
Writing on his Twitter account, political analyst Piers Pigou, said the country’s re-engagement efforts seem to have gone off the rails, considering the events that took place over the past week.
“Zimbabwe’s international re-engagement project appears somewhat off course. What is the cost benefit of this trip?” Pigou queried, before further stating in another tweet that, “Mugabe was repeatedly criticised for endless foreign travel.
“ED’s (Mnangagwa) travel plans were ostensibly tied to his re-engagement strategy.
“But in light of the situation in Zimbabwe one understandably wonders what the cost benefit of all those air miles must be.”
UK-based Kent University Law lecturer Alex Magaisa said Mnangagwa has maintained traits that made his predecessor unpopular on the world platform, which will make it difficult for him to sell Zimbabwe on the global market.
Writing on his blog, The Big Saturday Read, Magaisa said Mnangagwa’s administration has proved to be brutal, if not worse than the Mugabe regime.
“The irony is that while Mnangagwa will be telling the Davos crowd that ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business’, the reality at home is that Zimbabwe is not open for the Internet and social media, themselves important platforms and tools for doing business.
It will even be more ironic in that among that Davos crowd will be tech billionaires and millionaires whose businesses thrive on Internet and social media.
“There has never been a more self-defeating exercise than implementing an Internet blackout twice in a week when you are busy pleading for investors to come to Zimbabwe.
“Mnangagwa has begun to sing the old Mugabesque ‘blame the sanctions’ song, but the truth is his government is doing everything possible to discourage and scare off potential investors.
“With Zimbabwe back again in the news for all the wrong reasons, it is a hard-sell to investors,” Magaisa said.
MDC MP for Kuwadzana East constituency Chalton Hwende, said Mnangagwa’s dreams have been shuttered owing to the events taking place in the country.
“Now the Zimbabwe is open to business mantra is up in flames.
“The world is just now seeing the real ED, yes Zimbabwe has changed for the worse; Mugabe never used soldiers to kill protesters, never closed Internet, never denied arrested activists time to prepare for their trials,” he said on Twitter.
Another economist, who spoke on condition of anonymity said since Mnangagwa came into power, his goals to re-engage with the international community are being blown away by events taking place in the country. Daily News