Govt exploiting Covid-19 to seize power, opposition parties warn

Opposition parties have warned that the coronavirus pandemic is now being used by the government to seize power and worsen human rights abuses.

The opposition argues that the authorities took advantage of the lockdown against the pandemic to make new laws which are unlikely to be rescinded after Covid-19.

About 25 000 people have been arrested nationally for violating the lockdown regulations, while Bulawayo has the highest number of arrests, with some residents being physically harmed by security officials.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa also extended the Level 2 lockdown for an indefinite period, with regular two-week interval reviews to assess “progress or lack of it.”

After this announcement, the government declared that commuter omnibuses would not be allowed back on the streets unless they register with ZUPCO – which is the only mode of transportation allowed – a move that has irked people.

In an interview with CITE, ZAPU national spokesperson Iphithule Maphosa said there was more to the lockdown than meets the eye.

“Like we said before the lockdown that in Zimbabwe it is more of power retention through suppression of rights and civil liberties. To them lockdown was the best way of diffusing imminent civil unrest as a result of governance failures on service delivery and the economy,” he noted.

Maphosa said suppression of rights was seen in lack of “rights to associate, rights of movement and rights to economic activity.”

He said only hotspots associated with Covid-19 were supposed to be shut down to allow other parts of the country to continue with social and economic activities.

“This is important, especially where our government is unable to cushion the unemployed and starving masses from the repercussions of the lockdown of their lives. Also, the mitigation measures must be supported by the law, through parliament and the judiciary, unlike what is happening now where (President) Mnangagwa is arbitrarily and unilaterally pronouncing lockdown and the measures,” the ZAPU spokesperson highlighted.

MDC Alliance Bulawayo provincial spokesperson Swithern Chirowodza concurred that the current health crisis has only served to worsen the economic rights of people.

He cited that forcing commuter omnibuses to join the ZUPCO monopoly, was one method of seizing power.

“Government presumably wants to control the ability of its political opponents to mobilise the masses by asking all transporters to register under ZUPCO. This counters the black empowerment lobby, which after independence advocated for blacks to set up registered emergency taxi businesses,” he said.

“The ZUPCO monopoly will crush family businesses and offload hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans, mainly youths, into the unemployment bracket. As we speak, there are rumours that tycoon Kudakwashe Tagwirei will control the largest share of buses under the ZUPCO arrangement.”

Chirowoza said by right, parliament must pass a law that will sanction human rights violators and to bring authorities to account.

“The rate at which this government is issuing statutory instruments only shows that a few people are doing the work of parliament and that is worrying,” he said.

Independent analyst, Khanyile Mlotshwa said abuses thrive when no one was watching and with the lockdown, authorities could do as they pleased.

“The Mnangagwa government has always been illegitimate and is just continuing on its illegitimacy. There is nothing new or uncharacteristic in what it is doing. Any honest person will not be surprised at all by what is happening,” said the critical studies scholar.

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