In Zimbabwe, the opposition says it has been harassed since the re-election of Emmerson Mnangagwa

In the photo that led to his arrest, opposition MP Gift Ostallos Siziba sports large sunglasses and the black and white striped jersey of his favorite football team, the Zimbabwe Highlanders, with the caption: "We don't let us fear no one

In Zimbabwe, the opposition says it has been harassed since the re-election of Emmerson Mnangagwa

In the photo that led to his arrest, opposition MP Gift Ostallos Siziba sports large sunglasses and the black and white striped jersey of his favorite football team, the Zimbabwe Highlanders, with the caption: "We don't let us fear no one.”

In the wake of the meeting with the Harare Dynamos, interrupted by supporters invading the pitch and the intervention of the police, the Zimbabwean MP was arrested for inciting violence in mid-September.

A new illustration, according to the opposition, of a series of prosecutions with fanciful motivations aimed at reducing it to silence, after the controversial victory at the end of August of outgoing President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zanu-PF, the party in power since independence in 1980.

According to the main opposition party, the Citizens' Coalition for Change (CCC), a dozen of its members, including MPs and local councilors, have been arrested since the elections. The pre-election period also saw its share of arrests and intimidation. These lawsuits “are fabricated, politically motivated and without foundation,” CCC spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi assures AFP.

“Forced to flee”

Zanu-PF has long been accused by human rights organizations of resorting, among other things, to judicial harassment of the opposition to stifle any form of protest. Police spokesperson Paul Nyathi denies any campaign against the opposition, explaining that he is simply “following the procedure” in the event of infractions. The government did not respond to requests from AFP about these arrests.

International observers deemed the vote "non-compliant", highlighting "serious problems" affecting the "transparency" of the election, which saw the victory of Emmerson Mnangagwa with 52.6% of the vote, compared to 44% for the CCC candidate, Nelson Chamisa. The CCC called the entire process “chaotic and void,” and called for a new vote.

Since then, several of its members have experienced serious problems. In early September, Womberaishe Nhende, newly elected CCC municipal councilor in a district of Harare, and one of his relatives were kidnapped, tortured and abandoned naked near a river 70 km away. Their lawyers were then arrested for obstruction of justice.

As for the CCC spokesperson, he fled the country after the police unearthed a 2020 arrest warrant targeting him, in a case of incitement to violence which he assured was closed. “I was forced to flee, I had no other option,” he explains.

According to several specialists interviewed by AFP, this wave of repression reflects a certain nervousness within the regime after the election and the criticism that accompanied it.

“Decimate” the party

Nicole Beardsworth, researcher and professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, does not exclude that Zanu-PF may attempt, through the ongoing repression, to bring about the conviction of opposition MPs and win their constituencies through by-elections.

The party formerly led by Robert Mugabe is currently only ten seats short of the two-thirds majority in the Assembly required for it to be able to modify the Constitution as it wishes. “It is also an attempt to keep the CCC busy and intimidated, to ensure that there are no demonstrations against the regime,” adds the researcher.

For spokesperson Mkwananzi, the government is trying to force his party to “capitulate to enter into all kinds of negotiations” or to “decimate” it with a view to future elections. The CCC remains hopeful that its call for fresh elections will receive support from the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Wishful thinking for Zimbabwean Justice Mavedzenge, specialist in constitutional law, who highlights the lack of consensus within the organization.

Several SADC countries congratulated Mnangagwa on his re-election and the president of regional power South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, called on Tuesday for the lifting of Western sanctions against Zimbabwe during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly .

For Mr. Mavedzenge, the arrests of CCC activists are not necessarily a concerted plan of intimidation, but could simply be the work of “overzealous” police officers, keen to prove their loyalty to the president and his party.