HARARE – The denying of bail to Evan Mawarire — founder and campaign leader of the #ThisFlag movement — following his arrest last Wednesday at the Harare International Airport after making a surprise return to Zimbabwe from the United States shows just how determined President Robert Mugabe’s government is in crushing dissent.
Mawarire’s incarceration comes hard on the heels of fellow cleric Phillip Mugadza’s caging after he prophesied Mugabe’s death, which he claimed would happen later this year.
This is not the first time the Zanu PF government has descended heavily on its critics. As the country hurtles towards the 2018 elections, the situation on the ground is quickly turning to resemble the run-up to the June 2008 presidential run-off from which Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew, citing the murder of over 200 of his supporters.
Zanu PF is not prepared to let go the levers of power despite clear evidence of its policies’ failure, confining the country’s 36-year-old history to poverty and underdevelopment.
Zimbabweans are merely voicing their concern over the continuing deterioration of the country’s economic and political fortunes, which have driven citizens to the fringes of economic activity.
The majority of Zimbabwe’s citizens continue to live in dire poverty, enduring shortages of electricity and potable water, driving on pot-holed roads and operating with an unreliable public transport. An education system that is falling apart as well as an ever-deteriorating healthcare system have also compounded the situation.
Zimbabwe remains a country of two tales with the minority elite — mostly politicians and the politically-connected — living in affluence while the poor majority have to contend with less than a dollar a day. However, Mugabe does not brook dissent when such disparities are raised.
Human rights activist and Zimbabwe Peace Project director Jestina Mukoko, was abducted in December 2008. Journalist-turned-activist Itai Dzamara’s whereabouts remain unknown since his broad daylight abduction in March 2015 after staging a series of anti-Mugabe protests under the banner of his Occupy Africa Unity Square campaign.
His brother Patson and his colleagues — sworn anti-Mugabe activists — were bludgeoned and left for dead in November last year while returning from Mufakose, Harare. Tajamuka/Sesjikile campaign spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi, as well as National Vendors’ Union of Zimbabwe leader Stern Zvorwadza, among many others, have been routinely arrested for staging anti-Mugabe demonstrations.
While the citizenry has displayed signs of climaxing resistance against continued oppression and marginalisation, the intransigent authorities seem to have put in place a well-choreographed build-up to a violent election campaign for 2018.