Tensions continue to rise in Zimbabwe after President Emmerson Mnangagwa passed legislature criminalizing anti-government protests. Under the new law, public demonstrations that coincide with international events such as the Black Lives Matter movement will also be criminalized.
"The amendments will criminalize the conduct of isolated citizens or groups, who for self-gain cooperate or connive with hostile foreign governments to inflict suffering on Zimbabwean citizens and to cause damage to national interests," Zimbabwe Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said.
The Zanu-PF government led by Mnangagwa has come under scrutiny for arresting demonstrators at a public gathering in July and continued human rights violations. Most recently, the country's government faced months of public outcry after journalist Hopewell Chin'ono and opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume were arrested for confronting the actions of federal officials. Fortunately, the two were released at the beginning of this month.
The continued to mistreatment of Zimbabweans has led to the creation of social movements like #ZimbabweLivesMatter. In addition, the actions of the Zanu-PF government have deteriorated international relations. Most notably, the World Trade Organization has also placed sanctions on Zimbabwe. In contrast, the Southern African Development Community and African Union have refused to publicly call out the country's leadership.
"We fear that as long as Zimbabwe continues to violate its citizens' rights with impunity, we and fellow writers and journalists are in danger of having our rights violated in the different AU member states while the mother body stays silent," Zimbabwe activists wrote in a letter to the AU.
Instead of engaging activists throughout the country, government officials have criticized members of the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, of inviting sanctions against the country by way of independent negotiations with the United States.
“There are various unsubstantiated claims of torture and abductions that are concocted to tarnish the image of government, and amendments will criminalize such conduct,” Zanu-PF Spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa said.
Despite denials from federal officials, the country remains on watch lists created by the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
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