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'Mugabe was a better devil'

by Staff reporter
12 Sep 2023 at 20:06hrs | Views
Four years have passed since the passing of former President Robert Mugabe, and nearly six years since his ousting in a 2017 military coup that ushered Emmerson Mnangagwa into power. During this time, there is a growing consensus that Zimbabwe's multifaceted crisis has only deepened.

Mugabe's death in Singapore on September 6, 2019, marked the end of a divisive era in Zimbabwean history. His legacy remains a topic of heated debate. Some hail him as a principled revolutionary who aimed to economically empower Black people through education and policies like indigenisation laws. However, many view him as a dictator who brought one of Africa's most promising nations to the brink of collapse.

During his 37-year rule, Mugabe established an authoritarian regime that brutally suppressed political opposition, civil society, and human rights defenders. He tightened his grip on power, curbing free media and implementing the controversial land reform program, which violently removed productive white commercial farmers and replaced them with Zanu-PF elites. This led to an economic downturn as farms fell into disrepair.

Mugabe's ousting in a coup raised hopes for change, but his successor, Mnangagwa, has presided over a worsening political and economic crisis, leaving many Zimbabweans nostalgic for the Mugabe era, despite its ruinous consequences.

The political crisis reached unprecedented levels when the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) election observer mission condemned the conduct of the August 24 polls, a stark departure from the past when Mugabe enjoyed Sadc's esteem.

Under Mnangagwa's rule, more repressive laws have been enacted, further shrinking the democratic space. The "Patriotic Bill," officially the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Amendment Act 2022, has been criticized for stifling democracy by criminalizing actions perceived as harming Zimbabwe's sovereignty and national interest. This ambiguous law has raised concerns about potential abuse by law enforcement.

Civil society organizations had urged the international community to prevent the enactment of such laws, but Mnangagwa disregarded these calls. Additionally, the Private Voluntary Organisation Amendment Bill restricts political involvement by civil society groups and empowers the registrar to penalize non-compliant organizations.

Mnangagwa's rule has seen the imprisonment of political opponents like Job Sikhala and Jacob Ngarivhume.

Economically, Zimbabweans have suffered from skyrocketing inflation. In 2017, when Mugabe left office, the annual inflation rate was around 5%. However, it surged to 176% by June 2019 and has since risen to over 611%, making it the highest in the world. Food prices have also soared, with the United Nations reporting an annual food inflation rate of over 250%.

Public sector employees have seen their incomes drastically reduced, with civil servants earning approximately $540 under Mugabe, compared to about $300 today when combining salary and allowances figures. In RTGS (Zimbabwe's parallel currency), salaries are roughly equivalent to $30.

The current president, Mnangagwa, is perceived as treating education as a commodity for those who can afford it, in contrast to Mugabe's earlier efforts to provide free education. The privatization of public property has also become more common under Mnangagwa's administration.

With Mnangagwa's second term in hand, he has pledged to revitalize the economy and improve the lives of Zimbabweans. However, his election victory lacked global endorsement, raising questions about his ability to reintegrate Zimbabwe into the international community and steer the nation towards economic recovery and prosperity. The future of Zimbabwe remains uncertain under his leadership.

Source - NewsHawks
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