Misinformation, stage managed violence and sanctions

by Own Correspondent

In February 2018, there was influx of whatsapp messages alleging that groups of criminals (mabhinya) were kidnapping and beheading people, especially in rural Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) dismissed the above allegations stating that no such reports had been made at any of its stations doted around the country. The police went on to urge Zimbabweans to verify any such information with them and warned that people circulating such messages would be arrested. The messages abruptly stopped!

The impetus behind creating and circulating such alarmist messages is anyone’s guess. However, this incident served to show that Zimbabweans and indeed the world, believe some social media messages without question.

Fast forward to June 2018 and on a land far away from mabhinya, the United States Congress passed amendments to the 2001 ZIDERA under the guise of setting conditions for thawing the frost US – Zimbabwe relations. In other words, the US government had revised sanctions against Zimbabwe and all that was left was ascension by President Donald Trump – after election – probably depending on who wins.

The peaceful environment that prevailed before, during and immediately after the 30 July elections meant Zimbabwe was on the right path to satisfy some of the demands made by the US to mend relations. Other demands would probably be fulfilled in the 2023 election subject to amendments to the electoral law by the incoming parliament, as they were not provided for in the current legislation.

With hind sight, one can argue that surveys pointing to a Zanu PF win were a work up call for the opposition, especially the MDC Alliance, their surrogates and handlers, that defeat was imminent. Thus, if relations between US and Zimbabwe were going to normalize – this would happen with a Zanu PF government in place. That didn’t sound right – the US government crafted ZIDERA with the intention of seeing the back of Zanu PF. Yes – they may have sugar coated the sanctions as ‘targeted’ but the truth is they contributed immensely to the shrinking of the Zimbabwean economy.

Something had to give, the peaceful environment had to go, sanctions had to be extended – otherwise how would one explain the intention of the MDC Alliance unsanctioned violent demonstration of August 1 which resulted in the loss of six lives, taking into consideration that the opposition had previously held peaceful sanctioned demonstrations?

Whatsapp was awash with pictures of burning property, the dead and messages of the alleged crackdown on opposition supporters in the high density suburbs of Harare. As in the mabhinya case there were also unsubstantiated messages blaming President – elect Emmerson Mnangagwa for ordering the army to fire at unarmed civilians. President – elect Mnangagwa on the other hand, condemned both the violence and the unnecessary loss of lives and promised to constitute an independent inquiry into the matter after inauguration – which was quite reasonable, but not in the interest of the MDC Alliance, its surrogates and handlers.

Those who were privileged to have access to the Daily Maverick’s August 5 interview  with MDC Alliance principal and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader, Tendai Biti knew what was coming because the latter laid it bare for all to see – “the international community is not going to be fooled by this madness. We will make sure the Government (of Zimbabwe) will not get a single cent. I can’t tell you how, but I can tell you we have done it before.” And just like in 2001, on August 8 2018 President Trump signed the ZIDERA amendment bill into law. He could not wait for the independent inquiry proposed by President – elect Mnangagwa to look into the matter.

Chamisa, Biti and company  should be made accountable to Zimbabweans for being involved in the extension of the sanctions which have ravaged their lives for the past two decades.