Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC leader Nelson Chamisa has announced plans to visit Moscow and Beijing to seek help in settling the political and economic logjam gripping the southern African country, Russia’s Sputnik news agency reported yesterday.
This follows the police’s brutal clampdown on anti-government protests organised by the opposition party since last week over the country’s worsening problems.
The situation in Zimbabwe has remained tense since July last year when Chamisa refused to concede defeat to Zanu-PF leader Emmerson Mnangagwa in a closely-fought presidential race, claiming that the result was rigged.
Zimbabwe’s economy has tanked, and economists say the country is entering hyper-inflation after inflation peaked at 176% in July — the highest in over a decade.
Western powers, on whom Mnangagwa had banked for debt forgiveness and fresh investment, have held back after the Zimbabwe government cracked down on protesters in August last year and January this year.
Rights groups say two dozen activists were killed in the anti-government protests.
Over the past few days, the opposition had to call off its mass demonstrations in Harare and Bulawayo after police issued prohibition orders, which the MDC says are unconstitutional.
In Harare last Friday, hundreds of protesters defied the decision, prompting the police to use tear gas and truncheons to disperse crowds. Nearly 100 people were arrested.
“The (MDC) president is open and has plans to travel to major international centres, including Moscow and Beijing, some capitals in Europe and the West, just to highlight the extent of the problem in terms of how the problem is man-made and how the problem is costing millions of lives and has threatened food security for millions of people,” Chamisa’s spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda told Sputnik.
According to Sibanda, the economic meltdown in the country is unprecedentedly fragile.
“In just a few weeks, I’m told, we would completely run out of electricity. And we haven’t got money to buy electricity from other countries like we have done in other years when there was a drought.
“The situation has been made worse as in the last 12 months, we have lost about $3 billion to corruption in one transaction. It means that the country doesn’t have money to pay for electricity, the country doesn’t have money to pay for food,” he argued.
Chamisa’s efforts to urge the African Union (AU) and the regional bloc, to heed his party’s distress call, have hit a brick wall after the latter sprang to Mnangagwa’s defence.
Sadc, instead of censuring the Zanu-PF leader for gross human rights violations, at the weekend gave him a key role to chair the Sadc troika on defence and security.
Namibian President Hage Geingob, then Sadc leader, early this year after dialogue with the Zanu-PF leader said Mnangagwa was working flat out to address Zimbabwe’s socio-economic challenges.
“Since coming to power, the new Government of Zimbabwe has continued with concerted efforts to address socio-economic challenges and transform the economy, particularly through the Zimbabwe Transitional Stabilisation Programme, and to consolidate unity and peace in the country,” Geingob said in a statement.
Sadc blamed some internal groups, in particular non-governmental organisations, which it said have “continued with efforts to destabilise Zimbabwe”, supported by “external forces”.
Sadc and the AU have also backed Mnangagwa’s call for the unconditional lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe, and have not censored government’s violent crackdown on protesters, leaving Chamisa hanging out to dry.
Zimbabwe’s opposition believes that Mnangagwa’s government is not much different from the one of Robert Mugabe, who ruled the country for 37 years.