Protests erupted on the 14th of January 2019 in Harare and Bulawayo after a massive increase in the prices of basic commodities. The violence mainly took place in townships surrounding Harare, with reports of at least 12 people dead and many more injured. Internet and social media got shut down for a week. Following the unrests, things seemed to slowly die down in the days after. On Monday the 20th I was allowed back to the NewsDay offices again. Driving to work, life seemed to return back to normal; the streets were no longer empty, shops were open and people were picking up their daily routines. The fuel queues were gone, as prices had gone up so much Zimbabweans could not afford to fill up their cars anymore. But although things seemed ‘normal’ again, little information had been coming through about the political and social events from the days before (mostly because of the internet-shutdown). It is only in the last few days that it has become clear how bad the protests and its aftermath have been and still are.
Many people are missing – lost in the chaos of the unrests or reportedly kidnapped by soldiers. The crackdown on protesters has also been extreme. Participants have been put in jail, some of them still children. The secret service is reportedly hunting down members of the opposition, who have been forced to go into hiding. Zimbabweans have been systematically taken out of their houses and severely beaten. Yesterday a special report of news agency Skynews came out, showing detailed footage of some of the beatings. The video shows a man in handcuffs being arrested by a policeman, a soldier and a secret agent in civilian clothes. When the man says his handcuffs are too tight, the agent hits him hard in the face. Later on in the video, the man is put on the grass and hit by the policeman and the agent. People see it happening, nobody dares to do intervene. To watch the video, click on this link. It’s content is graphic, so caution is advised. https://news.sky.com/video/security-officials-seen-beating-man-in-zimbabwe-11619874
The surfaced video is distressing. Not only is the footage hard to watch, it shows the dire situation Zimbabwean citizens are in. They are not being protected by their government or police; human rights are being violated daily. Any form of resistance or protest is being hit down immediately, and hit down hard. In addition, the government is now making it out as if the Zimbabweans themselves are to blame for the protests. A smart move, heavily discouraging to the Zimbabweans also. Talking to a colleague at the offices, she told my Zimbabweans were tired. ” Tired of the violence and scared the government. The whole Zimbabwean system is corrupt and broken. Zimbabweans don’t want ZANU PF anymore, we don’t want Emmerson Mnangagwa. We don’t even want MDC. We want new people and new ideas, that is the only thing that will save Zimbabwe.”
The president swiftly reacted to the Skynews report, but completely missed the point. In a tweet, he stated: “I was appalled by todays @Skynews report. That is not the Zimbabwean way. I have instructed that the individuals behind this be arrested and encourage all those impacted to contact the authorities and file a report.” The tweet has been received with disbelief and disgust. When it’s the soldiers and the police beating Zimbabweans up, why would they go to those same authorities and file a report? The same goes for rape-incidents reportedly happening the past two weeks. Various women claim to have been raped by soldiers and police during the protests – for them it would be even harder to face those same authorities and make the complaint. The tweet worryingly demonstrates how out of touch President Mnangagwa is with the Zimbabwean peoples and how indisputably hard it is to be a citizen in the Zimbabwe of today.