By Nyashadzashe Ndoro
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has bizarrely called all dissenting voices, human rights activists in particular, “bad trees” and accused them of sending a negative impression about Zimbabwe.
This comes barely a month after Mnangagwa warned he would “flush out” political opponents as rights groups reported dozens of activists had been arrested in a crackdown.
Mnangagwa on Thursday toured a wheat farm in Nyika, owned by Bishop Nehemiah Mutendi and launched the Pfumvudza farming initiative.
Mnangagwa’s administration has been associated with reports of massive human rights violations characterised by arrest, torture, abuse and abduction of dissenting voices including journalists.
Recently, investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono who exposed alleged government corruption involving Mnangagwa’s son Collins and his wife Auxilia in massive allegations of corruption, the US 60m Drax Covidgate scandal was arrested and charged with inciting violence in connection with 31st July protests against corruption.
Opposition Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume was also arrested on the same day and they spent 45 days at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison before being granted bail by the High Court.
Main opposition MDC Alliance Vice Chairman Job Sikhala is actually in prison facing the same charges.
But Mnangagwa when he addressed a ZCC church on Thursday, already castigated human rights activists as bad trees.
“Tine vanhu mukati monyika rinobuda vachingopopota rigodoka vachingopopota. Vachingoti human rights human rights. Havana nguva yekutaura zvakanaka zvenyika yokwavo asi vanotsvaka zvokuipisa nyika yokwavo. Ndomuti wakaipa unotaurwa mubhaibheri.
“(We have people in this country who are always against the government. They always complain about human rights. They don’t even talk nice things about their country. Those are the bad trees),” Mnangagwa said.
Bishop Mutendi and other high profile individuals including judges, army, police and Zanu PF officials were exposed as having benefited from the controversial RBZ Farm Mechanization scheme which most commentators said amounted to a bribe as they did not have to pay it back.
Mutendi pocketed US$271,000 and US$315,600 from the scheme.
Recently, the Roman Catholic Bishops through the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) issued a statement condemning human rights abuses orchestrated by Mnangagwa’s under-fire administration. The State has since refused to listen to the statement and branded the clergymen “puppets of the West.”
Against that background, Mnangagwa has again condemned some churches that rebuke his administration for human rights violations.
“Kana kereke yakana kana vungano yakanaka hauparidzi zvakaipa. Tinavo mavungano mukati menyika, ukaundako havanana chakanaka chavanoparidza asi vanongoparidza mhirizhonga.
“(A good church does not speak bad things about the country. We have such churches that are always preaching bad things),” Mnangagwa added.
South Africa’s ruling party African National Congress (ANC) party last week sent a delegation to Harare to assess the political situation following reports of massive human rights violations.
A hashtag, #ZimbabweanLivesMatter has since been trending forcing advocacy networks, celebrities and politicians in Zimbabwe, South Africa and across the world to take information on rights abuses in Zimbabwe and mount pressure on Mnangagwa’s government to act.
Zimbabwe is currently experiencing massive human rights violations perpetrated by Mnangagwa’s regime which is battling an economic crisis partly blamed on corruption and mismanagement.