Zimbabwe's Mnangagwa slams 'foreign interference' ahead of next year's election

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Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa. (Gallo Images)
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa. (Gallo Images)
  • Mnangagwa claims foreign embassies stationed in Harare are working with the opposition to destabilise the country.
  • He praised China for building a parliament and funding infrastructure projects.
  • The Chinese embassy in Harare has threatened a newspaper over what it calls "anti-China" reporting.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa says, as the country reaches the homestretch to general elections next year, he has noted "worrisome" and "meddlesome" tendencies from foreign missions accredited to the country.

Mnangagwa - who came to power through a military coup in November 2017, before winning a disputed general election in July 2018 - wrote in the state-run Sunday Mail: "The government frowns upon this brazen effrontery against our sovereignty, which is in clear violation of basic provisions of international law governing inter-state relations."

He claimed that there was "a gross disdain for our sovereignty", and that "this worrisome propensity is likely to get even more blatant closer to our harmonised general elections slated for next year".

Besides banning foreign journalists from working in Zimbabwe in the past, the country has no record of deporting diplomats.

Faced with massive inflation, which independent economists peg at 502% per annum, and growing calls from government workers to down tools, Mnangagwa has blamed interference by Western governments.

Praise for China

He said that China had been pivotal in his drive, since coming to power, towards infrastructural development.

"When I came into power, President Xi Jinping gave me three things: first they built the parliament building; second, they gave us money to expand the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport... lastly, they gave us US$1,2 billion for the expansion of Hwange Thermal Power Station 7 and 8 projects in Matabeleland North province, which is almost complete and is set to impact positively on the wider economy. By March next year, we will have another 600MW."

However, critics accuse Mnangagwa of mortgaging the country's mineral resources to China. A red flag was raised by the World Bank in June through a report titled Developing Economies Should Think Hard About Taking on Resource-Backed Loans.

The World Bank report noted that, for developing and underdeveloped countries such as Zimbabwe, rising debt and record-high commodity prices were tempting them to pledge their natural resources to secure the financing they so urgently need.

"Zimbabwe recently entered into discussions with a commodity trader to hand over revenues from its lucrative gold and nickel mines to pay off its debts to the company." it said.

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The Chinese embassy in Harare claims the independent press is being paid by Western governments to write bad stories about China's investments in Zimbabwe. Most recently, the embassy threatened the The Standard newspaper.

The embassy claimed that it would take "strong countermeasures" against the The Standard and the Information for Development Trust (IDT), a media non-governmental organsation, over what it called fabricated "anti-China news".

Suppression of civic space

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CIZC), a grouping of over 75 civil society groups, said they would take to the streets in protest against Mnangagwa's deteriorating human rights record.

"It has become quite apparent that the state is keen on entrenching authoritarian rule and pursuing its agenda of a one-party state and, for us, this is a call to action," said CIZC leader Peter Mutasa.

"Human rights abuses, continued mutilation of the constitution, and a dishonest, parasitic and extractive national economic system, remain a threat to inclusive economic growth and national development," he added.

But the government is moving swiftly to curtail civil society operations in the country.

Zanu-PF, which enjoys a two-thirds majority in parliament, is working on amending the Private Voluntary Organisation Bill.

The new provisions will seek to criminalise civil society organisations funding opposition political parties and, if passed, the law will give government wide powers to interfere in civil society organisations’ governance and activities.

The power behind the throne

After the November 2017 coup, numerous military officers traded their army uniforms for civilian politics. Top among them was the Zimbabwe National Army commander, and now vice president, Constantino Chiwenga.

Since then, Zanu-PF has been issuing constant reminders that the army is in charge.

Party spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa said at a press conference last Friday: "We will not brook those who say there must be security sector reforms. Our army is the best. We want to send a very strong warning to the opposition that the boys and girls are back in town."

On Tuesday, Mnangagwa warned that the armed forces were ready to crack down on any "mischief".

"The security systems are fully aware of various antics at play and stand ready to appropriately deal with such mischief. Peace, unity, and tranquillity must continue to prevail in our motherland Zimbabwe," he told Zanu-PF's main decision-making body, the politburo.

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The government last week announced that it was bringing back the infamous National Youth Service next year.

The graduates from the service, known as "green bombers", become a militia unit aligned to Zanu-PF after undergoing a six-moth military-style course in ideology and combat.

Announcing the return of the programme, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the graduates from the Youth Service would get first preference in the army, police, and tertiary institutions.

"Graduates of the National Youth Service Programme will get first priority into higher institutions of learning, teaching, nursing, the army, and in the civil service in general," she said.

When the late Robert Mugabe introduced the programme in 2002, the "green bombers" joined war veterans, the army and police in political violence and crackdowns on the opposition.

Internal Zanu-PF fighting

For some time now, there has been talk of a fallout between Mnangagwa and his deputy Chiwenga. Both men present a united image in public, however, that has not stopped rumours in the corridors of power.

On Saturday, former party members fired in 2017 over allegations of being aligned to members of the G40 faction that fled the country after the November 2017 coup, claimed that Mnangagwa had reneged on a promise he made after the coup.

"If they agreed with Gen Constantino Guvheya Chiwenga that he will give him power to lead after five years, what makes him change? He must honour his promise to Chiwenga…There is no need to go for Congress and say '2023 ED Pfeee', for what?" said former party youth leader Jim Kunaka at a press conference, wher he claimed to represent "Zanu-PF Original".


In response, Zanu-PF director of information and publicity Tafadwa Mugwadi, in an interview with Voice Of America, warned "Zanu-PF Original" that "playing with fire is beyond one’s limits".

"It is one thing to criticise Cde ED Mnangagwa as a Zanu-PF president and first secretary, and a different thing all together to seek the unconstitutional removal of His Excellency Cde ED Mnangagwa as president and commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces of the Republic of Zimbabwe."

Addressing the party's politburo, Mnangagwa on Tuesday called for unity in the party for the sake of the 2023 general elections.

"We must all focus on the bigger picture to win elections. There is no room for bickering and personality clashes which may ultimately cost the party votes," he said.

Zanu-PF is set to hold an elective congress in October, and so far there's a general agreement in the party that Mnangagwa will be reelected unopposed.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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