'That is fake news': Zimbabweans challenge Mnangagwa over upbeat NYT op-ed

Emmerson Mnangagwa. (File: AFP)
Emmerson Mnangagwa. (File: AFP)

Harare - President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s upbeat view of Zimbabwe in the New York Times has received mixed reaction at home, with calls for him to repeal harsh laws and give freedom of expression and association to all, including his predecessor Robert Mugabe.

Writing in the New York Times this week Mnangagwa said "Zimbabwe is changing, and quickly".

False note

Mnangagwa said his government would protect investments, uphold the rule of law, ensure free and fair elections and entrench civil liberties.

"I commit that in the new Zimbabwe, all citizens will have the right of free speech, free expression and free association," he wrote.

But to some that pledge struck a false note as tough security and press laws – known by their acronyms POSA and AIPPA - remain in place.

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"As long as he doesn't talk of repealing draconian laws such as POSA, AIPPA that is fake news," said @mr_diimz.

Writing on Twitter, former education minister David Coltart also poured cold water over the article, which was published under the headline "Toward a new Zimbabwe".

Biased coverage

"It will be so much more believable if the Constitution is complied with – especially sec 61 (4) – free the airwaves!!," said Coltart in reference to a section of the national charter that says state media should be "impartial" and give voice to "divergent views and dissenting opinions".

Instead, state media remains heavily biased in favour of the government and ruling party. Mnangagwa's rallies, like Mugabe's before him, are broadcast live, a privilege not given to the opposition. 

Freedom of association?

Mnangagwa's pledge of freedom of association was also greeted with scorn, a week after state media and ruling party officials verbally attacked Mugabe for meeting with a former cabinet minister who leads a new party.

Some officials accused Mugabe of trying to destabilise Zanu-PF, while Mnangagwa said he was "not happy" about Mugabe's reported backing for the New Patriotic Front.

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