Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe stepped down on Nov. 21, 2017, bringing an end to nearly four decades of iron-fisted rule.
His resignation came days after military tanks rolled through the capital, Harare. The coup was greeted with euphoria, tens of thousands pouring into the streets to celebrate.
Today, three years after his successor, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, took over, the high hopes for change have dissipated into disaffection.
“Nothing has changed. Things have only got worse,” said Ibbo Mandaza, head of the Harare-based Southern African Political and Economic Series.
“Look at the levels of poverty. Look at the repression. Things are much worse,” Mandaza said.
On assuming power, Mnangagwa pledged to fix the country’s moribund economy, which had taken a battering under Mugabe’s watch.
The economic woes — including the foreign currency crunch which plagued Mugabe’s rule — remain, the promise of new jobs still a pipe dream for many.
While some goods that were once either scarce or inaccessible are readily available, most of the population cannot afford basic necessities.
The UN World Food Programme, which has traditionally provided aid to the poor in rural areas, has expanded its reach to urban dwellers.
The World Bank predicts the economy will contract by 10 percent this year, while the government says it will shrink 4.5 percent due to macroeconomic and COVID-19 shocks.
Mnangagwa has blamed the economic struggles on unnamed enemies.
“This battle is being fueled by our political detractors, elite opportunists and malcontents who are bent on pushing a nefarious agenda,” he said.
The ruling ZANU-PF party on Friday said that that at least 500,000 formal jobs had been created under Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa’s government has targeted opposition figures, rights activists and lawyers in what is seen as a tactic to strike fear into a restive population.
Human rights monitoring group Zimbabwe Peace Project said that since November 2017 it has documented 7,962 cases of abuse, including abductions of about 100 activists and opposition figures by suspected state agents or pro-government supporters.
Rights abuses “are worse and more gruesome,” prominent human rights activist Jestina Mukoko said.
In 2018, six people were gunned down when soldiers deployed to quell protests over delayed election results. Five months later 17 others were killed after the military was sent out to quell demonstrations over a fuel price hike.
Award-winning journalist Hopewell Chin’ono has been detained twice this year — once for endorsing anti-corruption protests and earlier this month for writing on Twitter about plans to grant bail to a politically connected miners chief arrested trying to smuggle gold.
University of Zimbabwe political scientist Eldred Masunungure said that the present picture “points to a comprehensively volatile situation.”
“Nothing points to stability, but I don’t want to overstate this because we have reached this crossroads many times before and the country has not collapsed. The default position in the country is one of instability. It appears like the new normal,” he said.
“It’s an exceptional case where the regime survives despite the volatility, where citizens don’t rise up despite the simmering anger. The regime staggers, but does not fall. That’s the mystery of our situation,” he said.
On the streets of Harare, resident Timothy Bhaureni said that “things cannot continue this way.”
“These people should just admit they have failed,” he said.
“Little did we know that we were swimming into a pool infested with crocodiles,” Itai Tione Wasu wrote on Twitter.
“Mugabe had to go, but I regret allowing myself to endorse the coup,” he added.
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