Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

Covid 19, a blessing in disguise for despots and strongmen

11 Mar 2021 at 20:14hrs | Views
Fanuel Chinowaita
The coming of a pandemic which Donald Trump, the former President of United States of America ,  referred to as 'Chinese Disease' has caused panic around the world notably to presidents and heads of government.  

According to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP , over 2,5 millions people have succumbed to Covid-19 globally and several thousands others have been infected by the novel coronavirus since its emergence in China late December of 2019. 

"Europe overall has 871,426 deaths from 38,427,275 cases, Latin America and the Caribbean 693,735 deaths from 21,875,286 infections, and the United States and Canada 545,063 deaths from 29,775,553 cases. Asia has reported 259,009 deaths from 16,308,187 cases, the Middle East 105,582 deaths from 5,662,330 cases and Africa 105,268 deaths from 3,950,208 cases," the AFP reported last week. 

As the pandemic wrought havoc on both lives and livelihoods it led also to the closure of borders as all but a few businesses or social activities were stopped as governments around the world battled to arrest the spread of this pandemic. 

The pandemic has not only been terrible to the human body but  it has also affected general humanity and politics around the world where despots have sought to use it as a pretext to subvert the will of the people.

What is more, it has enabled the erosion of democracy and respect for human rights so much that dictators like Emerson Mnangagwa, Yoweri Museveni among others have taken advantage of it to entrench dictatorship.

The AFP also reported that in Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has banned the opposition from giving aid to the needy on account of some ridiculous reasons that giving aid attracts crowds and thereby spreads coronavirus hence only the government may hand out food aid and anyone else who does so can be charged with murder.

Francis Zaake, an opposition member of parliament has already fallen prey to this injunction when he was recently arrested for delivering rice and sugar which he had bought for the needy in his constituency. 

This is despite the fact that he had been careful not to put his constituency at risk, rather than having crowds converge on one place to pick up the food parcels, he had them delivered to people's doors by motorbike-taxi. 
Taking advantage of these draconian lockdown regulations, the next day armed police and soldiers jumped over his fence while he was bathing and broke into his house and dragged him into a van before throwing him into a cell. 

Relaying his harrowing experiences,  to the media, at the hands of his tormentors he said he was beaten, kicked , had  his testicles crushed, sprayed with an unknown chemicals into his eyes and called a dog who must quit politics. 

As in most police states, the police mocked Zaake' and denied responsibility saying he inflicted  injuries on himself and is fishing for sympathy with foreign donors, however the charges against him were eventually dropped,  but the message was clear. "The president does not want the opposition to give out food," says Mr Zaake, who walks with crutches and wears sunglasses to protect his eyes.

In January this year, Uganda held its general elections and the long reigning strongman Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner, the results which are being contested by the opposition led by the youthful musician turned politician Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu otherwise known as Bobi Wine to his fans and supporters.  

He had vowed to occupy the streets after the elections, however immediately after Museveni was declared the winner, heavily armed soldiers stormed the young politician's compound holding him hostage for days on end, denying him the freedom and  right to go out to mobilize people to demonstrate against a rigged election.

Freedom House, a think-tank based in Washington counts 80 countries where the quality of democracy and respect for human rights have deteriorated since the pandemic began. The list includes both dictatorships that have grown nastier and democracies where standards have slipped. 

"Covid-19 has fuelled a crisis for democracy around the world," argued Sarah Repucci and  Amy Slipowitz of Freedom House.

In Zimbabwe, for example, a bulk of the 34 new regulations passed during a national lockdown are still in place, and have been used as a pretext to shroud myriad of abuses by the state. 

In September, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, an umbrella group, released a report listing 920 cases of torture, extra-judicial killings, unlawful arrests and assaults on citizens by the security services in the first 180 days of lockdown. 

According to the report one man was forced to roll in raw sewage while others had dogs set on them and dozens of opposition activists were arrested  and/or beaten, including former finance minister and MDC Alliance Vice President Tendai Biti, Vice President Linnet karenyi, National Executive members David Chimhini and Lovemore Chinoputsa.

Three MDC Alliance activists Joanna Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova were abducted by suspected state security agents, sexually abused and forced to their drink urine and ingest their stool. 

Soon after their release from abduction , their ordeal was far from over they were arrested for allegedly lying about their abductions, at the time of writing two of the trio, Joana Mamombe and Cecelia Chimbiri are back at Chikuribi maximum prison for addressing a press Conference.

Democratically elected representatives were expelled from parliament and in their places people from other political parties were hand-picked to replace those who had been recalled to add insult to injury the government has indefinitely stopped by-elections.

Furthermore, during the lockdown we witnessed the arrest of a journalist Hopewell Chin'ono, Job Sikhala and Jacob Ngaruvhume on allegations of inciting violence. Hopewell was to be arrested once again for posting on twitter exposing the abuse Covid 19 funds by some government officials.

So many people from the student movements were also arrested. Tapiwa Chiriga, Nancy Njenge and others are out on bail while Zimbabwe National Students President  Takudzwa  Ngadziore and former student leader Makomborero Haruzivishe among others remain behind bars.

It was also during lockdown when the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe passed a very controversial judgement ordering the MDC to go for an extra-ordinary congress although the matter was apparently moot. 

Speaking on the Zimbabwe Agenda 2021 on 9 March , MDC Alliance President Nelson Chamisa said Zimbabwe is in throes of twin pandemic. the Covid-19 pandemic and a  bad governance pandemic.

"The crisis of  authoritarianism is whereby the  regime embarked on a relentless  assault and onslaught upon democracy and our party. This assault involved the use of  state machinery to subvert democracy and the will of the people." Advocate Chamisa said in his virtual address.

To all these authoritarian regimes,  covid 19 became a much needed blessing which they took advantage of to loot and close the democratic space in order to entrench their power.

Source - Fanuel Chinowaita
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.