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Zanu-PF using lockdown period to consolidate power

01 Jun 2020 at 15:47hrs | Views
With the rest of the world concentrating on their own domestic issues arising out of the pandemic, Zimbabwean government seem to be banking on this lack of attention to consolidate their power by closing the already limited democratic space.  

Over the period the ZANU-PF led government have been sucked in questionable grandstandings all of political nature.

Where it has opened the courts to try cases that are mainly related to its political rivalry the MDC Alliance.

Inside same period the government also made arrests of the officials of the MDC Alliance officials for distribution of food parcel to its membership and its constituency residents.

This was despite the same being done by ZANU-PF officials who got away with it.

The arrests seemed to say that only ZANU-PF has the discretion to distribute food aid to the people and not the MDC Alliance.

It was infact arbitrary and aimed at scoring political capital.

Charges were that they were flouting lockdown regulations.

During the same period the MDC Alliance activists Joana Mamombe MP for Harare West, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova were abducted while in the hands of the Zimbabwe Republic Police custody at Harare central.

The abduction sent shock waves across the country as usual the government chose to clear itself and blamed a third force.

Circumstances of the abductions seems aimed to scare dissenting voices from antagonizing the establishment.

While we all agree that these extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

It is deplorable that the state has chosen to settle political scores and in some cases explicitly chose to gain political capital using the crisis.

Critics say across the globe some governments are using the public health crisis as cover to seize new powers that have little to do with the outbreak, with few safeguards to ensure that their new authority will not be abused.

Such has been the case in Zimbabwe.

Independence day was celebrated through gritted teeth, with a wry smile and an acute sense of irony, this year.

Many, if not most, were be lamenting the loss of freedom due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

For working class in Zimbabwe, the angst cut even deeper, as food have run out, accompanied in many cases by an even deeper fear about the future.

They may be asking themselves, "will I ever work again?".

Forty years ago Zimbabweans voted for the first time.

Ten years ago, a the so called democratic nation was immersed in the process of writing a "people driven" constitution – one that was signed into exsistence in May 2013 the same document is facing over 30 amendments in the shortest period of its exsistence despite it being "people driven".

The constitution has chapter 12 institutions that are meant to safeguard the elaborate rights of the citizens in some cases forming the basis for remedial action in cases of violations

Rights have frequently been claimed by individuals and communities to defend themselves from irrational, unreasonable or otherwise unlawful conduct by both state and private sector entities.

But these human rights victories may be far from front of mind particulary in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Democratic governments throughout the world have been compelled to claim rarely used powers and authority and limit freedoms in response to the threat posed by a deadly virus.

 It is understandable.

But it is the extent to which these powers are used. In our case the application of the law has never been impartial.

President Emerson Mnangagwa chose to invoke the provisions of the Disaster Management response at a relatively early stage, on 1 April.

This extended the authority of his government so that it can impose restrictions on, for example, the number of people who may gather in any one place.

Consequently, citizens have had to accept stringent restrictions on their normal civil liberties.

Zimbabwe lockdown is one of the "hardest" in the world.

 Everyone except for "essential workers" is confined to home, permitted out only when buying food or medicine.

Freedom curtailed

For Zimbabweans, those in the zones where the opposition MDC Alliance thrives, the measures were hard to bear.

The sight and sound of the police and the army patrolling the streets to enforce the lockdown regulations surely stirred a painful sense of déjà vu.

Still smarting from August 1 2018 shootings that took over 10 lives according to the MDC Alliance and the January 2019 shootings.

The mere obtaining proved hard to stomach.

The need to have a permit to move from town to town or province to province, or simply to transport produce, is perhaps even more evocative – redolent of JM Coetzee's novel The Life and Times of Michael K.

Clearly, the right to freedom of movement enshrined in the constitution got severely curtailed.

Several other rights, in effect, also suspended or limited.

 Most obviously, the right to freedom of assembly: congregations present a real risk of increasing transmission of the disease, as President Mnangagwa  pointed out in his most recent address to the nation.

During the same period the government also used the pandemic to expand their power.

We saw the fast tracking of the judgement on the status quo of the MDC-T.

The courts have so far pulled confusing and conflicting positions on the matter.

Analysts believe that the reason why the courts decided to take care of the matter during the time emergency was to decimate, weaken and derail the opposition's organising against the ZANU-PF government.

Zimbabwe purports to be a democracy and claims to have well-established democratic customs.

Nevertheless, some bills got rushed through Parliament at a breakneck pace affording government the power to suspend members of the house of assembly from the National Assembly if they "disrespect" the President, the Chief Justice or Speaker, after Parly adopted new standing orders.

And a provision that MPs MUST stand when the President or Chief Justice enter or leave the chamber.

Such laws in normal circumstances could have not been fast tracked in that fashion.

According to  commentors some of the provisions - will give the government unchecked control over elected officials.

The legislation gives sweeping powers to the ruling party to water down divergent voices in the parly.

"These are eye-watering powers that would have not been really imaginable in peacetime in this country before," said Carlington Gumbo a political commentor based in South Africa.

He called the measures "draconian."

He added that  "swing from crisis to crisis, health panic to health panic, and then find that we've lost political freedoms and political space"

"We risk easily finding ourselves in a one party state" he said.

Source - Taruberekera Masara in Pretoria
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