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Mnangagwa slams ‘foreign interference’ ahead of next year’s election

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa says, as the country reaches the homestretch to general elections next year, he has noted “worrisome” and “meddlesome” tendencies from foreign missions accredited to the country.

Mnangagwa – who came to power through a military coup in November 2017, before winning a disputed general election in July 2018 – wrote in the state-run Sunday Mail: “The government frowns upon this brazen effrontery against our sovereignty, which is in clear violation of basic provisions of international law governing inter-state relations.”

He claimed that there was “a gross disdain for our sovereignty”, and that “this worrisome propensity is likely to get even more blatant closer to our harmonised general elections slated for next year”.

Besides banning foreign journalists from working in Zimbabwe in the past, the country has no record of deporting diplomats.

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Faced with massive inflation, which independent economists peg at 502% per annum, and growing calls from government workers to down tools, Mnangagwa has blamed interference by Western governments.

Praise for China

He said that China had been pivotal in his drive, since coming to power, towards infrastructural development.

“When I came into power, President Xi Jinping gave me three things: first they built the parliament building; second, they gave us money to expand the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport… lastly, they gave us US$1,2 billion for the expansion of Hwange Thermal Power Station 7 and 8 projects in Matabeleland North province, which is almost complete and is set to impact positively on the wider economy. By March next year, we will have another 600MW.”

However, critics accuse Mnangagwa of mortgaging the country’s mineral resources to China. A red flag was raised by the World Bank in June through a report titled Developing Economies Should Think Hard About Taking on Resource-Backed Loans.
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The World Bank report noted that, for developing and underdeveloped countries such as Zimbabwe, rising debt and record-high commodity prices were tempting them to pledge their natural resources to secure the financing they so urgently need.

“Zimbabwe recently entered into discussions with a commodity trader to hand over revenues from its lucrative gold and nickel mines to pay off its debts to the company.” it said.

The Chinese embassy in Harare claims the independent press is being paid by Western governments to write bad stories about China’s investments in Zimbabwe. Most recently, the embassy threatened the The Standard newspaper.

The embassy claimed that it would take “strong countermeasures” against the The Standard and the Information for Development Trust (IDT), a media non-governmental organsation, over what it called fabricated “anti-China news”.

Suppression of civic space

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CIZC), a grouping of over 75 civil society groups, said they would take to the streets in protest against Mnangagwa’s deteriorating human rights record.

“It has become quite apparent that the state is keen on entrenching authoritarian rule and pursuing its agenda of a one-party state and, for us, this is a call to action,” said CIZC leader Peter Mutasa.

“Human rights abuses, continued mutilation of the constitution, and a dishonest, parasitic and extractive national economic system, remain a threat to inclusive economic growth and national development,” he added.

But the government is moving swiftly to curtail civil society operations in the country.

Zanu-PF, which enjoys a two-thirds majority in parliament, is working on amending the Private Voluntary Organisation Bill.

The new provisions will seek to criminalise civil society organisations funding opposition political parties and, if passed, the law will give government wide powers to interfere in civil society organisations’ governance and activities.

The power behind the throne

After the November 2017 coup, numerous military officers traded their army uniforms for civilian politics. Top among them was the Zimbabwe National Army commander, and now vice president, Constantino Chiwenga.

Since then, Zanu-PF has been issuing constant reminders that the army is in charge.

Party spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa said at a press conference last Friday: “We will not brook those who say there must be security sector reforms. Our army is the best. We want to send a very strong warning to the opposition that the boys and girls are back in town.”

On Tuesday, Mnangagwa warned that the armed forces were ready to crack down on any “mischief”.

“The security systems are fully aware of various antics at play and stand ready to appropriately deal with such mischief. Peace, unity, and tranquillity must continue to prevail in our motherland Zimbabwe,” he told Zanu-PF’s main decision-making body, the politburo.

Story by News24