After holding largely peaceful elections on July 30, Zimbabwe is sliding back to anarchy amid credible reports of security forces launching a crackdown against opposition leaders and their supporters countrywide.
The violence began with the protests that rocked Harare early this month where the army killed at least seven unarmed civilians after a protest against what was perceived to be suspicious delays in the announcement of the presidential election results.
According to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), in Chitungwiza and Harare “members of the community were being assaulted by people in military uniforms who were moving around the suburbs in military trucks”.
The commission said it “continues to receive complaints of intimidation, harassment and threats to citizens perceived to have voted for the opposition, those who acted as polling agents for opposition candidates or stood as parliamentary or council candidates in both urban and rural communities”.
Innocent people have lost property and others were maimed for merely exercising their constitutional rights in what is supposed to be a “new dispensation”.
What is disturbing, as noted by the ZHRC, is that both the government and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces are denying that soldiers have been deployed in the high- density suburbs.
Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo last week incredibly claimed that the people in military uniform who were terrorising people in the name of Zanu PF could be rogue soldiers.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised to set up an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the army killings that have since been roundly condemned by the international community.
However, almost over a week after the shootings, there is no indication that a credible investigation is underway to bring the perpetrators to book.
Mnangagwa has said nothing about the crackdown, save to only issue a weak appeal to politicians to stop inciting violence.
The ZHRC must be commended for calling on political leaders to ensure that their “message of peace, tolerance and respect for human dignity and sanctity of life cascades to all their supporters at community level”.
Those with executive authority need to respect the constitution when it comes to army deployments.
This is the time for Mnangagwa to demonstrate that he means it when he says Zimbabwe has entered a new era of democracy.
The president has said his rule will be different from that of his predecessor Robert Mugabe where Zimbabweans were routinely killed, tortured and harassed for exercising their rights.
There is a tendency to dismiss the reports of violence against opposition parties as propaganda, but in the ZHRC we believe we have a credible institution that must be taken seriously.
Mnangagwa needs to rein in soldiers that are attacking defenceless citizens for the country to return to normalcy.
We also urge the Zimbabwe Republic Police to investigate cases of human rights violations without fear or favour and ensure that victims get justice.