Zimbabweans are living in fear of the government’s iron fist rule and the militarisation of state institutions which has shrunk economic development and further worsened the democratic space, a human right advocate has said.
Most citizens are fearful of the increased security forces presence on the streets and alleged politically motivated abductions which have happened since the disputed 2018 elections.
Mnangagwa’s heavy-handedness on the citizens has often come under criticism from the opposition and civil society organisation who accuse him of shrinking the democratic space.
Heal Zimbabwe Director, Rashid Mahiya recently told 263Chat that the heavy military presence on the streets countrywide has instilled fear in already oppressed citizens, who if confronted by the state, have no easy access to justice.
“You cannot have peace in an environment with injustices. You cannot have peace in a militarized environment, that’s why you have all these violations. You have the president of ZINASU who has been incarcerated for demanding the rights (of the people). Look at Joana Mamombe right now
“So we cannot talk about peace because when we do, it’s all about rights and injustices. As Heal Zimbabwe, we are talking about positive peace, sustainable peace,” Mahiya said
Critics have accused Mnangagwa of reverting to the authoritarian tendencies of the Robert Mugabe era amid a worsening economic crisis.
Mahiya stated that the only way to achieve sustainable peace and justice is through the respect of citizen’s’ rights which are enshrined in the constitution.
“Citizens must have socio-economic and political rights. We have been reporting of violations that are taking place in rural communities.
“Women and older people are being denied food aid on the basis of their political affiliation yet there is a drought and COVID-19. You cannot build that society peaceful society if you deny them of justice,” he added.
He said the solution to all this lies in the national dialogue.
“We need a genuine dialogue because we understand there are many factors and parties to this conflict in Zimbabwe. We have citizens on one side and citizens on the other.
“The social contract is broken, the relationship between the state and the people has broken down, and there is zero trusts. If you see what is happening in Zimbabwe, the people are trying to live off the state,” he noted.
However, dialogue between the state and the citizens seems unlikely as there has been animosity between the two.
In August, President Emmerson Mnangagwa issued chilling threats to the nation following the July 31 demonstration which was thwarted by the security forces, that those who speak against his government would be dealt with.
Critics, including church leaders and lawyers, have accused the government of using the COVID-19 pandemic to trample on human rights and of abducting and torturing opponents.