As Zimbabweans starve under COVID-19 lockdown, abduction and torture tactic condemned, questioned; 4 MDC MPs recalled

The COVID-19 lockdown is now indefinite,
reviewed every two weeks, and cross-border trading, and remittances have
greatly diminished as sources of survival for the people. While the number of
COVID-19 cases in Zimbabwe is small, the fear of a big outbreak is
well-founded. Small but significant aid grants came from the European Union,
the World Bank and even the USA, despite the formal US sanctions. As well, the
US removed two Zimbabwe banks from its sanctions list – a welcome move.

On May 13, three female leaders of the MDC
Alliance Youth were abducted and tortured, including sexual assault, and were
surfaced on May 15. One of them, Johanna Mamombe, is an MP. The role of the
police is murky, the identity of the perpetrators is a mystery, and it both
angered the public and struck more fear among those engaged in politics. It
also embarrassed the Mnangagwa government which was hosting a SADC security
meeting, and provoked rapid diplomatic condemnation. President Mnangagwa
dismissed his Deputy Information Minister who had ridiculed the women’s claims
on Twitter. Zimbabwe Women in Politics and Peacebuilding issued a statement
among may made by different groups, condemning political violence particularly
against women and demanding the state find the perpetrators and put an end to
the spate of political abductions. Many see the event assisting the G40 faction
of ZANU-PF.

Meanwhile, on May 19, four MPs from Nelson
Chamisa’s MDC Alliance were expelled from the parliament at the request of the
Acting Secretary General of MDC-T. More may yet be removed. Chamisa ordered 83
MPs loyal to him to boycott parliament, but three defied him.  MDC-T urged
them to return, arguing that Zimbabwe needed the parliament to work for the
people during the COVID-19 lockdown. This call is an important shift towards
pragmatic cooperation with the Mnangagwa government by a significant section of
the Opposition. The MDC-T Congress has been set for July 31, 2020, but the date
may change depending on the lockdown rules at the time.

Zimbabwe
Information Centre, Australia

May 27, 2020