In my entire 48 years of existence, I have come across those who have tried every trick in the book to win popular opinion and favour – from lying, deviousness, and all manner of image polishing – but, never have I come across anyone who has had a whole forty-one (41) years of unrestricted and unfettered control over a country, and yet, has dismally and pathetically failed to sway popular support on their side, as the ruling ZANU PF party.
We have witnessed the massacre of tens of thousands of innocent men, women, and children (in the 1980s) in an apparent attempt to wipe away any support for the opposition ZAPU, which was led by Father Zimbabwe Joshua Nkomo), then in the 2000s, hundreds of perceived MDC (led by Morgan Richard Tsvangirai) members were butchered – not to mention the millions more maimed, displaced, and even forced into exile.
Today, the violent brutal repression of dissenting voices – particularly, human rights, opposition, and anti-corruption activists – has never abated, with their endless arrests on largely tramped up charges (with seldom any convictions), as well as allegations of abductions, beatings up, torture, and forced disappearances (Itai Dzamara easily coming to mind, and has never been found since 2013).
On top of this, the government has relentlessly abused the advent of the COVID-19 outbreak to ban any opposition gatherings (for example, Cecilia Chimbiri and Joanna Mamombe, who were arrests for addressing a few journalists outside court), yet the ruling party’s activities have gone unmolested – most of them clearly being potential superspreaders, with crowds in their thousands.
The Zimbabwe regime has even gone on to deploy security forces to shoot, with live bullets, unarmed protestors, leaving scores dead (both in August 2018, and January 2019, most of the victims being fleeing bystanders).
As if such machinations to destroy any semblance of an opposition in the country was not enough – thereby, fulfilling a long-held dream of establishing a Chinese-like one-party state – the ZANU PF-run government has arrogantly violated every rule in the journalism ethics books (and, in so doing, also disregarding the country’s Constitution [Section 61(3)]) by exercise full control over all state media editorial policies, thereby ensuring that, for the past 41 years, only the governing party voice was heard, whilst every other dissenting opinion was either ignored or vilified, accompanied by savage vitriol.
We also witnessed concerted and ruthless efforts to even silence emerging independent media – which had finally given the opposition, and other social justice activists, a voice – something, that resulted in the promulgation, in the early 2000s, of such notorious laws as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), and Broadcasting Services Act (BSA).
In this regard, the ruling ZANU PF abused its parliamentary majority to rush through legislation (as per its tradition), without even affording parliamentarians adequate opportunity to debate the bills in question.
One of the most toxic effects of these laws was the creation of a webbed framework calculated to restrict the exercise of freedom of expression, and in particular, mass media – most specifically, is the strategy to control media, in the person of the minister of information, who was a political appointee, and had the power to determine the terms and conditions upon which both mass media practitioners amd organizations operated.
As a result of the polarization and hatred created by such efforts to destabilize and constrict any opposing media views, violence against mass media, and media practitioners, featured as one of the means used to undermine freedom of expression – with numerous journalists routinely being assaulted by security forces, kidnapped and tortured (such as Mark Chavunduka and Ray Choto), and the Daily News (the country’s only independent daily newspaper at the time) had its printing press bombed and destroyed.
The situation has not changed today, as the plight of independent journalists, most notably, those loudly exposing high level corruption – Hopewell Chin’ono, and Mduduzi Mathuthu, being the most prominent – has been characterized by persistent arrests on what legal minds consider spurious charges – which have not seen the light of day in a competent court of law, with one such charge against Chin’ono recently being thrown out, on the basis that it had long been struck off the country’s law books.
As much as AIPPA was repealed, most media practitioners believe that its replacement, the Freedom of Information Act is hardly any better – furthermore, state media continues to violate the constitution with impunity, in its partisan and biased reportage.
To cap it all up, the Zimbabwe regime has roped in some opposition figures to operate a dubious entity calling itself the MDC-T (created by the Supreme Court in 2020), that has achieved nothing except to decimate the main opposition MDC Alliance – whilst, supporting the wanton bastardization of the country’s Constitution, leading to the enactment of Constitutional Amendment numbers 1 and 2, whose main aim was to safeguard the ruling establishment’s hold on power, by virtue of extending the Chief Justice, Luke Malaba’s reign, which, however was subsequently, ruled unconstitutional by the High Court.
This is the same Malaba who threw out the MDC Alliance’s electoral court challenge, after the hotly disputed 2018 win by the incumbent Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa over Nelson Chamisa – so, it would make perfect sense why those in power would insist in him continuing in office.
Not to be outdone, the ruling ZANU PF is notorious for distributing any aid, especially in rural areas, along political party lines, with known or suspected opposition supporters being left out – even if that resulted in starvation of the affected people.
These rural areas have even been turned into no-go areas for the opposition, as they can not freely campaign, with traditional leaders doing the ruling elite’s bidding.
So, my question is: after all these machinations, clearly intended to hugely disadvantage, cripple, and even destroy the opposition in Zimbabwe – whilst, providing ZANU PF with a marked and seemingly unsurpassable stranglehold – why is the ruling establishment still in fear of the opposition, and a real prospect of losing an election?
Why are they still fighting, tooth and nail, any attempt by the Chamisa-led MDC Alliance – to the extent of preventing him from even conducting a simple clean up campaign? Why is the state media still fearful of providing the main opposition with fair and balanced media coverage?
Why is the ruling party planning to enact a draconian law, the Patriotic Act, that will criminalize any criticism of those in power? Why is there allegedly a plan to increase the age for a presidential candidate, from the current forty (40) years old, to about 52 years – obviously targeted at Chamisa, who is 43, and will be 45 at the next presidential election in 2023?
After forty one years of all these repression and barbaric acts against the opposition, whilst abusing state apparatus for the sole benefit of ZANU PF, they still do not have enough confidence that they can win a free, fair, and credible election?
They still want an embarrassed and disgraced judge to be forcibly kept in office, as their only last line of defence.
Is this not an unequivocal admission that ZANU PF has nothing to offer the people of Zimbabwe, and that it is unwanted and unloved by the majority?
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and political commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263733399640, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org