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Zimbabwe: Has life changed much under Mnangagwa's presidency?

Distressing footage of Zimbabwe's youngest MP, Joana Mamombe, 27, has recently come to light.

Upon viewing the footage you can see Mamombe sobbing and scared as she relieves her ordeal at the hands of men she is convinced were agents of the state.

Taking part in an anti-government protest on May 13, she says she was taken into a forest and thrown into a pit with two other women who were female members of the opposition's MDC Alliance.

Told in some detail, the women were allegedly beaten, sodomised with handguns and forced to drink each other's urine for a period of almost two days.

Recurring allegations of this kind are raising concerns for many Zimbabweans who fear Mnangagwa's presidency carries similar overtones to that of Robert Mugabe's, who was ousted in a coup in 2017 and died last September.

Image credit: The African Exponent

The removal of Mugabe as president of the country brought hope that abductions, beatings and extrajudicial killings that characterised both his early and later years would come to an end.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the man who both succeeded Mugabe and precipitated his demise, was supposed to represent a fresh political start for Zimbabwe and a step away from its dark past.

The ordeal suffered by these three women indicates a less repressive way of life for Zimbabweans may not be on the table just yet.

Government media responded to the allegations presented by the women by claiming they had staged their own kidnapping - the three women were found dumped 80km outside the capital with their clothes ripped and barely able to walk.

Further highlighting the institutionalised social injustice that women face in Zimbabwe, government ministers made a mockery of the ordeal by theorising the women's injuries were inflicted during a disagreement over payment for sex.

Offering no evidence to support his claim, the deputy information minister Energy Mutodi argued that the women attempted to make their boyfriends, who are illegal gold miners, pay for services rendered in precious foreign currency.

The government has promised to investigate the women's claims, but ministers have suggested that the women would be charged for failing to socially distance at the protest they attended, thus indicating a rather small desire to take the case seriously.

The two Zimbabwean journalists who interviewed the women have been arrested and denied bail under mysterious and dubious conditions.

The ruthlessness of the current president, also known as "The Crocodile", is not unheard of. Mnangagwa leads the party that has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence from the British Empire 40 years ago.

Despite denying the allegations, Mnangagwa has also been accused of presiding over The Gukurahundi, a series of ethnically charged massacres of thousands of Ndebele civilians carried out by the Zimbabwe National Army from early 1983 to late 1987.

Whilst Mnangagwa declares Zimbabwe "open for business", attempts to repair bonds with the West become less likely with incidents such as those experienced by the three women still taking place.

With human rights abuse still ongoing, it is evident that the removal of Mugabe has not taken with it the repression he implemented.

With at least 17 people killed during fuel riots last year, and a series of abductions and unlawful arrests, it is sad to say the saga involving Masombe and her colleagues may not be an isolated incident.

To balance the argument a little, Mnangagwa has been dealt an unfortunate hand. Aside from the disastrous legacy from his predecessor, the nation is economically devastated and has also been hit with a cyclone and two consecutive droughts that destroyed its important agricultural sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made matters worse, forcing the government to introduce a lockdown that has caused the collapse of industries such as tourism, vital to the economy and livelihoods of many.

With the current situation so dire, some observers believe there could be an internal move to oust Mnangagwa from his presidency.


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