The year 2020 put Zimbabwe’s democracy to the test as many political activists were arrested for trying to exercise their rights to demonstrate while others were allegedly abducted.
By Richard Muponde
Political analyst Alexander Rusero said 2020 has been a sad year courtesy of Covid-19, which triggered the incipient decline of democracy in Zimbabwe, self-evident through state-inspired and state-connected abductions of citizens.
“Sadly it has been a year that witnessed total rupture of the opposition and its decimation as a viable political alternative. The year 2020 and its horrors have given Zanu PF leverage and strategic positioning way before the 2023 elections, as it apparently remains the only party immune to Covid regulations and state of emergency,” Rusero said.
The year also saw a further split of the main opposition after the Supreme Court ruled that MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa was an illegitimate successor of MDC-T founder Morgan Tsvangirai, who died in 2018 of colon cancer.
Chamisa had been embroiled in a leadership tussle with Thokozani Khupe, the leader of the rival MDC-T.
Harare West Member of Parliament Joana Mamombe, together with two other opposition MDC Alliance activists, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova, were in May allegedly tortured and sexually assaulted after being abducted by suspected state security agents.
The three women, all leaders of the MDC’s youth movement, were reportedly arrested at a roadblock after staging a protest in Harare’s Warren Park area against the state’s failure to provide for the poor during the country’s Covid-19 lockdown.
They disappeared and were later found dumped by the roadside about 40 kilometres away from the capital, badly injured and traumatised. Witnesses said masked assailants bundled the three women into an unmarked Toyota minivan and drove them away.
The three activists were later to be arrested on allegations of lying about their abduction.
They are currently on remand and their trial date on charges of participating in an illegal demonstration together with three other activists Lovejoy Chitengu, Stanley Manyenga and Obey Tererai Sithole has been set for January 19.
The month of June saw MDC alliance deputy presidents Tendai Biti and Lynette Karenyi-Kore arrested after their attempts to gain entry into Harvest House were thwarted by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police.
Biti, Karenyi-Kore and other leaders were at Harvest House seeking police to clear what they called illegal occupants to allow them to work without disturbance. That was after the youths from the MDC-T led by Khupe had taken over the building.
The MDC Alliance leaders claimed they were the owners of the building. Others arrested on that day included Senator David Chimhini, MDC national executive member Lovemore Chinoputsa, secretary for international relations Gladys Hlatshwayo and Wongai Tome and they are all on remand over the case.
Then, independent investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was arrested on allegations of using his twitter account to incite members of the public to protests on July 31 against rampant corruption in government.
He is on remand awaiting trial on two charges after he was rearrested last month for contempt of court after reportedly posting court proceedings on twitter. Authorities also charged Jacob Ngarivhume, a leader of the opposition Transform Zimbabwe party, for organising the July 31 protests.
Chin’ono, an award-winning journalist, has been exposing alleged corruption by the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa on social media.
His exposure of the alleged Covid-19 procurement fraud within the ministry of Health led to the arrest and sacking of Health minister Obadiah Moyo.
Moyo was fired over his alleged involvement in the $60 million Covid-19 scandal which implicated Mnangagwa’s family.
The embattled then Health minister was arrested for allegedly awarding a lucrative tender to Drax International fronted by Delish Nguwaya for the supply of Covid-19 drugs and personal protective equipment, despite being fully aware that the company was not a pharmaceutical entity but a consultancy firm.
August became the darkest month for the opposition. After winning the Supreme Court judgement, MDC-T, through its secretary general Douglas Mwonzora, recalled several MDC Alliance lawmakers and councillors.
Among those who lost seats were MDC Alliance vice-president Karenyi-Kore, a proportional representation MP for Manicaland, and Binga North lawmaker Prince Dubeko Dube, who chairs the party in Matabeleland North.
So far over 31 MPs and Senators, and 45 councillors including four mayors have been expelled.
That same month witnessed yet another upset in government after Mnangagwa wielded the axe on Energy minister Fortune Chasi over a litany of issues that were allegedly causing strain between them, including factionalism in the ruling party, it emerged.
Chasi was also said to have been deemed a threat to the first family’s interests.
He was replaced by little-known Soda Zhemu, the Zanu PF MP for Muzarabani in Mashonaland Central province.
Zanu PF held its chaotic district coordinating committee elections in December where the party remained divided with the polls marred by accusations of rigging and vote-buying. The elections were seen as a tussle for power between Mnangagwa and his deputy Constantino Chiwenga.
Disgruntled candidates and party supporters across the country petitioned the party’s national commissariat department. Several candidates said the internal polls were shambolic and were structurally disfunctional processes which could not result in any valid outcome.
They said if the national executive went on to endorse the results of the polls without addressing grievances raised, the party would be heavily divided and in fact fail to garner its targeted five million votes nationally.