President Mnangagwa’s address, which was telecast on state television, comes in the wake of protests online and in the streets against the arrest, abduction and torture of critics of his government.
Last month, the jailing of journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was greeted with condemnation from around the world. Chin’ono had backed Mnangagwa as the right man to succeed the deposed Robert Mugabe but Chin’ono’s praise soon turned into criticisms of Mugabe’s successor.
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The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZHLR) has put the number of people arrested at a protest march over the weekend at about 60. This includes Jacob Ngarivhume, the spokesperson of Transformation Zimbabwe, an aggregate of interest groups committed to social justice, who spearheaded the protest.
Many more have met fates similar to Chino’no’s and Ngarivhume’s in recent months. President Mnangagwa has clamped down on the sections press and politicians who have spoken out against him.
The international interest in what is happening in Zimbabwe has come partly by the way of social media hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter. Celebrities and politicians including Jamaican dancehall star Beenie Man and South African firebrand Julius Malema have thrown their support behind Mnangagwa’s critics.
But on Tuesday, the president sought to cast his detractors as enemies of Zimbabwe.
“Those who promote hate will never win. The bad apples that have attempted to divide our people and to weaken our systems will be flushed out, Good shall triumph over evil,” Mnangagwa said.
He continued: “My administration has faced many hurdles since its inauguration and these include the divisive elements of some opposition elements, the illegal economic sanctions, cyclones, drought and most recently the deadly COVID 19 pandemic. We will defeat the attack and bleeding on our economy.”
The president and certainly those closest to him believe the opposition to Mnangagwa’s government comes also from outside Zimbabwe.
Last week, before a planned protest against the government, the spokesperson of the Zanu-PF party Patrick Chinamasa, called the United States ambassador to the country, Brian Nichols, a “thug” who trains insurgents and coordinates violence.
Chimamasa warned that the party will move to expel the ambassador if the accusations leveled against Nichols persist.
Meanwhile, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has cautioned Zimbabwe against using the coronavirus pandemic as a guise for infringing upon human rights.