Zimbabwe mnangagwa

Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Photo by Tina SMOLE / AFP

Zimbabwe: Top journalist’s sister kidnapped, calls for Ramaphosa to step in

Mnangagwa has ordered police and military personnel to fill the streets amid a mass anti-corruption protest on Friday.

Zimbabwe mnangagwa

Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Photo by Tina SMOLE / AFP

The editor of ZimLive, one of Zimbabwe’s most-read online news publications, Mduduzi Mathuthu, has revealed a harrowing account of government intimidation which allegedly led to his sister being kidnapped by security forces on Thursday night.

As civil unrest in Zimbabwe continues to spiral out of control — made infinitely worse by lockdown measures which have decimated the country’s lifeline of informal trade and afforded the notoriously heavy-handed security forces more power — Mathuthu and his colleagues remain outspoken about oppression under President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime.

It’s this candid criticism of Mnangagwa’s tyrannical rule that has threatened the lives of many Zimbabwean journalists. On Thursday 30 July, Mathuthu, who has previously been a victim of government intimidation and violence, announced that police had raided his house.

This raid came on the eve of mass demonstrations in Zimbabwe, as thousands of disenfranchised citizens vowed to defy lockdown regulations in protest against corruption within Mnangagwa’s government. Mnangagwa ordered military personal and police officers to quell any dissidence with decisive action, warning protesters:

“I want to warn the organisers of this ill-fated demonstrations that our security services will be vigilant and on high alert to appropriately respond to their shenanigans … I urge all patriotic and law-abiding citizens to shun these malcontents and reject their divisive and ruinous plan.”

Zimbabwe: Intimidation, kidnapping on the eve of anti-corruption protests

The warning came too late for Mathuthu and his family. According to the search warrant, later published by ZimNews, security forces accused the editor of “keeping and manufacturing subversive materials” along with “inducing Zimbabweans to engage in public violence”. The latter accusation ostensibly relates to the mass protest action on Friday 31 July.

Mathuthu explained that while he was not present during the raid, police ransacked his house and ultimately ordered his sister to account. The editor explained:

“So they raided my house, found me absent and they gave my sister an ultimatum; get Mduduzi here, or we will take you. They took her. She has no journalistic or political bone on her. Please stop this madness.”

Following the raid, communication from Mathuthu ceased, sparking fears that the editor may have been detained. Hours later, Mathuthu resurfaced, announcing that his sister had been freed with the help of swift legal assistance but that one of his nephews was still missing. Mathuthu said:

“Thank you everyone for your prayers and pressure on the regime. My sister had been freed. Two nephews located at Central Police but one cannot be accounted for, although they were taken together. Many thanks to MISA and their lawyer Nqobani Sithole who has been awesome.”


Pressure builds on SA President Cyril Ramaphosa

The latest act of political intimidation aimed at silencing journalism in the poverty-stricken country adds to a long list of government-enforced extortion.

Pressure has now built on South African President Cyril Ramaphosa — in his role as Chairperson of the African Union — to take decisive action against Mnangagwa.

Former Democratic Alliance (DA) leader and founder of the One South Africa Movement, Mmusi Maimane, called on Ramaphosa to step in and hold Mnangagwa to account for human rights violations and the continued mistreatment of journalists, saying:

“Mr President Cyril Ramaphosa this is not the time for quiet diplomacy. You are the chairperson of the African Union you cannot sit quietly and act like you do not see what is happening next door. Call Emmerson Mnangagwa and tell him to respect the rights of the media and opposition.”

Maimane added that while South Africa had its own share of problems, “a broken Zimbabwe is bad for everyone in the region”.

Amid a heavy police and military presence, anti-corruption protests are set to go ahead on Friday, with the capital of Harare being a focal point for the demonstrations.