Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said he would firmly deal with opposition groups in a televised address on Tuesday, calling them “terrorists”, as human rights groups have continued to document the arrests of activists and opposition members.
"Those who promote hate and disharmony will never win. The bad apples that have attempted to divide our people and to weaken our systems will be flushed out. Good shall triumph over evil," he said.
Zimbabwean activists and opposition groups called for people to take to the streets on 31 July to protest against what they describe as mismanagement of the country and corruption surrounding management of the Covid-19 pandemic. Security forces called for people to stay home, and a number of people who did go out on the streets were arrested.
Mnanagagwa said calls for protests were made by the “machinations of destructive, terrorist opposition groupings,” adding that "security services will continue to carry out their duties with appropriate astuteness and resolve".
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights have documented at least 60 arrests of activists and opposition leaders, as a number of cases are going to court for bail hearings this week.
Demonstrators describe the government's crackdown as an excuse to stifle opposition by using Covid-19 preventative measures.
Some of those arrested have been released on bail, but have had to surrender their passports, such as main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC) spokesperson Fadzai Mahere. Others, including journalist Hopewell Chin‘ono, remain in jail until new bail hearings later this week.
MDC said it continued to receive reports of illegal house visits “particularly in Kwekwe and Bulawayo. Soldiers and police officers brutalizing people for no reason,” according to a statement shared on social media.
Many MDC members have gone into hiding.
The Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), Solomon Dersso, said on social media that actions of states “fighting Covid-19 comply with principles of legality, necessity and proportionality, thus no basis for arbitrary deprivation of liberty or life, inhumane treatment or torture,” referring explicitly to events in Zimbabwe.
More than 100 African writers and journalists signed a petition five days ago calling on the African Union, of which the ACHPR is the quasi-judicial human rights body, to suspend Zimbabwe for its human rights abuses.
The letter specifically addresses the arbitrary detention of Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, who exposed last month the alleged fraud involving government coronavirus contracts. It also gives details how his arrest was against the laws of the state, but was carried out anyway.
It called out both the regional body Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the AU for their silence— especially after both were quick to issue statements condemning the George Floyd's killing by a police officer in the US.
Zimbabwean Lives Matter
Zimbabweans have been suffering from high unemployment, 700 percent inflation, and alleged mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic. Reports indicate that people who have severe Covid-19 symptoms have been refused entry into hospitals that are at capacity in Harare, and some are dying in the parking lot.
Many Zimbabweans decried police brutality in the US against black people, yet some point out that this brutality is also happening on their doorstep. This led to the emergence of the #ZimbabweanLivesMatter hashtag, a nod to the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the US.
While Zimbabweans take to social media to condemn the alleged human rights abuses in their own country, Mnanagawa said he would be resolute in handling protests or any sort of dissent.
"We shall overcome attempts at destabilisation of our society by the few rogue Zimbabweans acting in league with foreign detractors," he said.