Robert Mugabe was Zimbabwe’s head of state for thirty-seven years, running a regime of violence and terror. His forced resignation from leadership last year was a shock both on a domestic and global level, as Mugabe had dominated the political scene for so long.
Although Mugabe’s removal from power was not executed in the most democratic fashion, it did bring about a slither of hope to Zimbabweans, as for the first time in over three decades they would be able to elect a brand-new leader; ideally one that would not deprive them of democratic liberties. Yet, the events that have followed the general election held at the end of July seem to suggest Zimbabwe is unlikely to deviate from the terror that was enforced under Mugabe.
Emmerson Mnangagwa became the third President since Zimbabwe achieved independence, winning 50.8% of the vote. Obtaining more than 50% of votes, Mnangagwa and the ZANU-PF party were able to avoid going to the polls a second time. Prior to being elected President, Mnangagwa was a former vice-president under Mugabe’s rule, but played a major role in Mugabe’s removal from power. During his time as Vice-President he was generally liked by the people as majority of Zimbabweans were outraged when Mugabe replaced him for his wife. However, being president for just over a week, what popularity Mnangagwa may have had is almost completely eradicated.
Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa claimed that the electoral proceedings on Friday were unfair and unjust and called for his supporters to express their disapproval. Rather than allowing citizens to freely express their opinions Mnangagwa adopted similar tactics to his predecessor.
On the Wednesday following the election, police fired ammunition, teargas and a water canon at protesters who were gathered in the capital city, Harare, killing three people in the process. On that same day, in the village of Chinamhora, four children and a fruit salesman were shot down by soldiers who were also trying to silence protesters. The next day another protest took place in Harare, but police were quick to flash their rifles, scaring protesters enough for them to abandon their demonstration.
Members of the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change, have also been confronted with violence and oppression with 21 people being arrested last Saturday during a raid on MDC headquarters. They are being charged with advocating public violence, but in reality it is the ZANU-PF party that has been initiating the widespread brutality. In addition to quashing protests and arresting opposition members, Mnangagwa has also ordered soldiers and police and party supporters to abduct, rape, beat and murder anyone who shows signs of opposition.
These series of savage events on both citizens and political opponents clearly illustrates that while Zimbabwe has a new President, the political landscape has not changed. With President Mugabe prioritising power over effective and necessary change people are not allowed to freely express themselves, without fear of upsetting their newly elected dictator. It is expected that violence against citizens is going to continue, indicating that Zimbabwe has not escaped the Mugabe era, but have simply changed the face of it.