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Despot running berserk: Understanding politics of abductions, torture and the sanctions nexus in Zimbabwe

"Conquering the world on horseback is easy. It’s dismounting and governing that’s hard." Genghis Khan.

By David Siampondo

This article seek to explain how the autocratic regime and ZANU PF is trying to conceal its failures and keep control of power. Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zanu PF are behaving like rabid dogs ready to pounce with no provocation.

David Siampondo is a social scientist
David Siampondo is a social scientist

One criticism that the successive Zimbabwean government’s of Robert Mugabe and Mnangagwa have widely received is on politics and nation building. The government of Zimbabwe has seen its key ministries and portfolios occupied by people of an unstable mental state.

By all means this is not supposed to be a pugnacious article but an illuminating one. Straight from the bush some comrades found themselves occupying high, sensitive and strategic offices which they had no clue how they function and some still under trauma and psychological disorientation of the liberation struggle were thrust at the deep end and disaster started brewing and the consequences of it we live with today.

Similarly after the November military coup which took out Mugabe some overexcited novices who have never occupied even community offices such as Victor Matemadanda and Energy Mutodi found themselves grinning in government ministries.

Once upon a time Adolf Hitler said, make the lie big. Make it simple. Keep saying it, and eventually people will believe it. The archaic and rusty Goebbels’ propaganda machinery appears to have been dumped in Zimbabwe and the scraping sound of the derelict machine as it is being forced to work against its mechanical clock bears testimony of its anciency.

Government and ZANU PF have maintained a straight face on its allegation on opposition MDC for having invited sanctions. This is a lie that they have coined and repeatedly used to a point that some gullible people of little readership have fallen prey to.

ZANU PF and government have managed to hoodwink some people and other entities who some out of genuine stupidity have took it hook line and sinker whilst others are deliberately being mischievous and untruthful to their conviction but are spreading the propaganda because it is nourishing their stomachs.

The big lie has not spared even regional entities such as the SADC block, AU and some member states. However entities like SADC and AU are fully aware of the real causes of sanctions and how they can be resolved but for decades have been insincere and has rather chose an appeasement path other than to be truthful and helpful to the Zimbabwean cause.

The stinking protectionist stance by SADC and AU makes the institution a club of dictators who cannot call each other out. There are questions these SADC and AU members have not asked their counterparts in the Government of Zimbabwe.

Simple question such as, why Zimbabwe only got sanctions. Why don’t they also get sanctioned and what is it that Zimbabwe has done or is doing that they haven’t done or not doing?

Some apologists and propagandist will rush to say because there was a land reform in Zimbabwe. The answer however is partly correct but fundamentally misinterpreted. Land reform was long overdue and everyone supported the need to open up the land question and correct anomalies.

The way it was carried out was barbaric and very much chaotic. A lot of white farm owners were brutalised and murdered in broad daylight. Black workers on the farms were inhumanly treated and a sizeable number was maimed and killed during the violent take overs.

There was no respect for private property rights in terms of movable properties such as farm implements, equipment and other personal possessions. The greediness drove them to chase away the farmers even before they could harvest their crops.

All this was unfair treatment and inexcusable and a fertile ground to impose sanctions. Any such flagrant abuse of property and human rights is punishable universally, Zimbabwe being a signatory to a number of Private and human rights protocols knew better but decided to ride with the political wind in fear of losing political power, as the saying goes, if you sow wind you will harvest a whirlwind. If you kill you deserve to be punished and the government of Zimbabwe killed and no way was it to escape punishment.

Assuming that the liberation fighters/ war veterans had unfinished business with the white folks because of the Lancaster House Conference agreement that brought independence we can ignore their ill-treatment of the said category. We have then a wave of political violence against fellow blacks that swept the country which ran concurrent with farm invasions.

The government embarked on a reign of terror where members of the opposition were brutalised and murdered. Less than a year of its formation by 17 May 2000 during a nine weeks of violence fifteen people had been killed including 12 MDC supporters.

Hundreds were beaten up and seriously wounded and some never recovered. Torture camps akin to the Nazi concentration camps were established and one such torture base was at a surgery in Budiriro owned by Chenjerai “Hitler” Hunzvi.

Given the happenings of this period no sane mind will refute the fact that ZANU PF invited sanctions on the country through its actions. What the MDC did during this period was simply to amplify the atrocities to international media through their international relations desk led by Sekai Holland and Information and Publicity led by Learnmore Jongwe.

Most international media houses witnessed the terror first hand and had little to ask around.

2001 saw the passing of ZIDERA with 91% (396 votes) voting in favour of the bill. The bill according to the US government was to help Zimbabwe to restore rule of law, achieve broad based and economic growth among other.

The requalification criterion to withdrawn privileges was a simple show of basic human rights and good governance.  Enablers will be quick to ask good governance to who? Well that’s simple and easy some standard practices are universal and global guidelines exist.

Zimbabwe was not asked to reinvent the wheel but basically to shape up with other countries including our very neighbours who are quick to half-heartedly fake calling off sanctions without addressing causes that necessitated the proclamation of them in the first place. What bad neighbours!

The cases can go on and on but it is pertinent to look at the present scenario why sanctions will remain in place and why they will be expanded instead of being removed. When Mnangagwa usurped power from Mugabe in a military coup in November 2017 the nation and some countries were ready to forgive and turn a blind eye to the fact that his military coup was not bloodless contrary to his claims.

The actual fact is the military coup was bloody, there are many people who went missing and got killed and their deaths suppressed. A number of people were tortured and others had to skip borders to survive such as Jonathan Moyo, Patrick Zhuwao, Mandi Chimene, Savior Kasukuwere and others.

The world was ready to forgive provided Mnangagwa was to reform and free up democratic space. However it wasn’t the case he actually proved to be more autocratic than his political Gamaliel Robert Mugabe. He persecuted the opposition and civil society relentlessly.

During his first six months he had charged more than twenty activists with treason a number that dwarfs Mugabe’s near four decades of dictatorship.

Abductions escalated and became serious. Where even comedians and musicians were not spared, abductions and torture became the order of the day, these abductions and tortures are being used to intimidate and cow opposition political party members into passivity.

When Mnangagwa lost the presidential election to Nelson Chamisa in 2018 he ran berserk and dangerously amok. His legitimacy was contested and up to today the majority of Zimbabweans do not recognise him as president and befittingly so he had exhibited unpresidential manners on several occasions.

Besides his lack of probity it is his penchant to abduct, torture, rape and kill that have made his messages on removal of sanctions to be hollow and lifeless. He actually worsened the conditions that brought sanctions on the country.  A case in point is the recent abduction and torture of Honorable Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova.

The three were arrested at a police roadblock from Warren Park and were taken to Harare Central Police Station where they were handed into the hands of state secret agencies and Zanu PF youths for torture.

Using the state media the Zimbabwe Police through its national spokesperson confirmed the arrest of the three but only to say latter that they no longer have them in their custody. Where did they go? They were dumped in a rural area facing a shop called “Muchapondwa” literally translated meaning you will be murdered.

Clumsily and stupidly done was their abduction, yet they still want the world to believe the three abducted themselves and sexually abused themselves. They can afford to deceive some but surely not everyone. It is such actions that invites sanctions and no one else.

Sanctions are easy to get rid of them. Mnangagwa should just stop acting and behaving like a dog with rabies. Mnangagwa should find a suitable substitute for his insatiable appetite for human blood and anguish of the people and focus on building a strong state.

Reforms are needed and needed now. Mnangagwa should not be allowed to keep the nation at ransom because he wants to keep power which has since shifted base.

David Siampondo is a social scientist

This was a special detour, next article will be the postponed one on reforms and social cohesion.