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‘Mnangagwa attempting to hoodwink Commonwealth Assessment Mission’

The decision by the judiciary to finally release one of the political prisoners, MP Godfrey Sithole two days before the coming of a Commonwealth Assessment Mission to assess Zimbabwe’s possible readiness to rejoin its ranks, has been viewed by observers as President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s plan to “hoodwink” the international community into believing that the situation is improving.

After assuming power through a military coup that ousted late former President Robert Mugabe in 2017, Mnangagwa in 2018 requested to be readmitted into the club of former British colonies claiming that he would uphold human and property rights and the rule of law.

Mugabe pulled Zimbabwe out of the Commonwealth in 2003 in frustration after his administration was taken to task over poll fraud and state sponsored violent seizures of white-owned land.

The Zanu-PF regime jailed without trial 14 members of the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) including MPs Job Sikhala and Sithole.

Interestingly, after spending 149 days jailed at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison together with his fellow colleagues, Sithole was released two days before the arrival of the Commonwealth mission.

Sikhala and the 14 activists are still incarcerated.

A Commonwealth delegation led by assistant secretary general Professor Luis Franceschi will be in Harare from 12-18 November to assess if the country is ready to rejoin the club. Foreign Affairs Minister Fredrick Shava confirmed the development in a statement.

“A Commonwealth Assessment Mission will be in Zimbabwe from 12 to 18 2022, at the invitation of His Excellency President E. D. Mnangagwa, to assess the progress that the country has made following the application it submitted in 2018 to rejoin the organisation.

“The Mission, led by Assistant Secretary General Professor Luis Franceschi, will be visiting the country for the third time, in line with Zimbabwe’s re-engagement thrust that seeks to reset and rekindle its foreign relations in order to create a conducive and supportive environment for the successful implementation of NDS1 and the realisation of Vision 2030,” he said.

Shava added that, during the visit, the mission would meet with Mnangagwa and hold discussions with the Foreign Affairs Ministry and other ministers and senior government officials covering the political, legislative and economic reforms that the “Government has implemented under the Second Republic. It will also engage the media and other stakeholders on matters of interest to the organisation.”

Political analyst Pride Mkono said the regime was not sincere in releasing Sithole. He added that the move was made by Mnangagwa to paint a wrong impression that the country is improving in terms of rights when in actual fact, “it is getting worse”.

He further argued that the rights situation was deteriorating more under Mnangagwa’s administration than during the time of Mugabe.

“The release of the prisoners by Emmerson Mnangagwa shows that he is attempting to appease the Commonwealth and hoodwink the international community into believing that Zimbabwe’s human rights situation has improved, which is obviously false because the reality on the ground is that the human rights situation has in fact deteriorated.

“There are more people now charged with political offences than they were in 2017 when Mugabe was removed. There are more people now who are being denied bail and basic freedoms than in 2017 when Mugabe was removed.

“So, it is really a tragedy for President Mnangagwa to be attempting to lie and show a bold face when in fact he is a chief human rights violator in the region and sub-continent at the moment. That is worrisome.

“But obviously the Commonwealth and the international community can see through those shenanigans and exert pressure on him to implement critical political reforms that can uphold human rights and ensure that Zimbabwe has a free and fair election in 2023,” he said.

The 1991 Commonwealth core principles and values cites that the members were supposed to respect human dignity, liberty and values.

“liberty of the individual under the law, in equal rights for all citizens regardless of gender, race, colour, creed or political belief, and inalienable right to participate through free and democratic political processes in framing society in which he or she lives,” they agreed.

“… democracy, democratic processes and institutions which reflect national circumstances, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, just and honest government…

“fundamental human rights, including equal rights and opportunities for all citizens regardless of race, colour, creed or political belief.” the commonwealth core principles state.