The World Today for February 26, 2024


Swimming With Crocodiles


A Zimbabwean court recently gave opposition leader Job Sikhala a suspended sentence of nine months in prison for making falsehoods on social media. The charges stem from his allegation that a police officer killed a child at a bus stop.

Sikhala’s attorney said the southern African country’s top court had found that the law he supposedly violated was unconstitutional, Africa News reported. Amnesty International called the decision a “travesty of justice.”

The ruling came less than a month after a court freed Sikhala after almost 600 days in jail on pretrial detention for charges that include inciting public violence in 2022. As France 24 noted, the leader of the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change political party has been arrested dozens of times since he entered politics in 1999 and challenged the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).

These developments occurred as ZANU-PF candidates won a two-thirds majority in parliament earlier this month, paving the way for lawmakers to amend Zimbabwean laws to extend President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s term in office – a pattern that has been repeated across Africa as longtime leaders seek to flout term limits, Voice of America reported.

Many hoped Mnangagwa would usher in a new era in the country after taking the helm following the ousting of longtime dictator Robert Mugabe in 2017. Instead, after winning reelection last summer, he appears to be continuing the same strongman tactics that Mugabe leveraged successfully to retain power for 37 years.

Another opposition leader, for example, Nelson Chamisa, recently quit the Citizens Coalition for Change, saying ZANU-PF operatives had infiltrated the party. Speaking to Al Jazeera, he compared working in the party to a “swim in a river with hungry crocodiles.”

“Crocodile” is Mnangagwa’s nickname.

“Mugabe’s removal from power gave way to cautious optimism about a new dawn in the country’s post-independence affairs,” wrote World Politics Review. “But more than five years since he was succeeded in office by Mnangagwa, the hope for a more peaceful and prosperous Zimbabwe has all but evaporated.”

Meanwhile, the economy hasn’t been faring much better than the political landscape: It has been growing, but inflation has cut into those gains and poverty remains widespread, according to the World Bank.

The president and his allies, meanwhile, have pledged that the economy will improve significantly this year due to the recent discovery of oil and gas in the country as well as improvements in the mining and tourism industries, Voice of America reported. But economists were skeptical, and Zimbabweans continued to emigrate elsewhere in search of opportunities.

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