Troubling Trends in Southern Africa: Tanzania and Zimbabwe

August 5, 2020

Tanzania's President John Magufuli addresses members of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi Party (CCM) at the party's sub-head office on Lumumba road in Dar es Salaam, October 30, 2015
Tanzania’s President John Magufuli addresses members of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi Party (CCM) at the party’s sub-head office on Lumumba road in Dar es Salaam, October 30, 2015 Emmanuel Herman / REUTERS

Michelle Gavin – In a blog post of 29 July, 2020 – draws attention to the deterioriation in Tanzania where President John Magufuli claims that Tanzania is free from the virus and tourists should feel confident about visiting the country. To ensure that the public will take his word for it, official data on the number of positive cases has not been released since the end of April, part of a pattern of hiding, or tightly controlling information that in most countries can be accessed and interrogated without incident. Since his election in 2015 on an anti-corruption platform, Magufuli’s penchant for eliminating or suppressing discordant narratives has proven toxic to his country’s democracy.

Brave Tanzanians continue finding ways to speak out about the shrinking space for discourse and dissent in their country [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/31/annual-reports-2019-tanzania-mostly-a-bad-year/]. Outsiders, including UN human rights experts, have spoken out about the persecution of journalists, civil society leaders, and opposition politicians [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/06/tanzania-shows-great-power-sensitivity-to-un-human-rights-criticism/. ….

In this climate, it’s difficult to be optimistic about the upcoming October elections. The legal context in which opposition parties operate has changed, limiting their capacity to mobilize voters, and major civil society organizations have been disqualified from observing the polling. In Zanzibar, where citizens’ civil and political rights have been denied multiple times in the context of elections, the voter registration system has only added to citizens’ mistrust of the process. The stage increasingly looks to be set for an election that serves the interests of the current leader, but erodes popular trust in democracy itself.

in the meantime in neighbouring Zimbabwe dozens of people have been arrested and detained in the past few weeks over protests against government officials and corruption. Speaking on Tuesday 5 August 2020, President Emmerson Mnangagwa accused who he referred to as “rogue Zimbabweans” of working together with foreign detractors to destabilise Zimbabwe. “We will overcome attempts at destabilisation of our society by a few rogue Zimbabweans acting in league with foreign detractors,” Mnangagwa said.

Inflation in Zimbabwe is more than 700 per cent and last month the World Food Programme projected that by the end of the year 60 per cent of the country’s population will lack reliable access to sufficient food.

Footage of violence carried out by security forces and the detaining of opposition politicians and government critics has drawn international condemnation. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter call to action, Zimbabweans have expressed their thoughts and demands for actions on social media using the hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter.

The UN Human Rights Council is among those expressing concern about claims the authorities in Zimbabwe are using the COVID-19 outbreak to crackdown on freedom of expression and peaceful protest.

“While recognising the government’s efforts to contain the pandemic”, the OHCHR spokesperson said, “it is important to remind the authorities that any lockdown measures and restrictions should be necessary, proportionate and time-limited, and enforced humanely without resorting to unnecessary or excessive force”.

Amnesty International said in a statement released last week that a number of activists had gone into hiding after police published a list of names of those wanted for questioning in connection with the planned protests. 

Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Southern Africa, said: “The brutal assault on political activists and human rights defenders who have had the courage to call out alleged corruption and demand accountability from their government is intensifying. The persecution of these activists is a blatant abuse of the criminal justice system and mockery of justice.

Shannon Ebrahim – Independent Media’s foreign editor – on 5 August 2020 wrote from Pretoria that a week ago she was a speaker at a webinar on Zimbabwe organised by the South African Liaison Office, and sh spoke after the spokesperson of the MDC Alliance, Fadzayi Mahere. I was impressed by her eloquence, professionalism and commitment to human rights and the rule of law.It never occurred to me, looking at this immaculately-dressed young lawyer, that in three days she would find herself in a filthy police holding cell overnight with other women, no water, no sanitiser, only an overflowing pit latrine and a few filthy blankets.

,,Mahere saw her colleagues, Terrence and Loveridge, in the other holding cells. They had been abducted, beaten and tortured, and had bleeding head injuries. They had been blindfolded, told they were at Lake Chivero and were going to be fed to the crocodiles.

…It is a great tragedy that 40 years after liberation, Zimbabweans are asking themselves how there is no rule of law or political freedom.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/16/human-rights-in-africa-in-2019-rage/

—-

https://www.cfr.org/blog/troubling-trends-threaten-what-little-trust-remains-tanzanias-democracy

https://www.voice-online.co.uk/news/world-news/2020/08/04/zimbabwe-president-mnangagwa-issues-warning-to-critics/

https://www.bignewsnetwork.com/news/265993300/explainer–what-you-need-to-know-about-whats-happening-in-zimbabwe

https://www.iol.co.za/news/opinion/zimbabweans-are-relying-on-us-to-speak-for-them-when-they-are-silenced-9c650bdc-66b9-4cdf-9be8-900b5a13d0c6

Former Botswana president Ian Khama throws weight behind #ZimbabweanLivesMatter

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: