1.0 Executive Summary
The state of paranoia
During the first week of July, Transform Zimbabwe leader, Jacob Ngarivhume announced he was galvanising support for a July 31 demonstration against corruption. His announcement immediately drew the support of the generality of Zimbabweans such that even on social media, the hashtag #31July was trending. This announcement came amid revelations of widespread corruption in government, including the Drax Scandal, where government unprocedurally shelled out US$60 million Covid-19 supply contract to a shelf company called Drax without going to public tender.
This was followed by the revelation that top Zanu PF officials and sympathisers– including many who are still in government- had looted farm mechanisation equipment in 2008 and not paid back any cent. In that case, the question for the month of July would remain, who shall protect the people, when those assigned to protect them, are preying on them?
The situation, which came as discontent over economic mismanagement was rising, allowed for conversations on the demonstration to dominate the Zimbabwean online and offline spaces.
During this month, the cases of Covid-19 were rising sharply, and government announced stricter measures to restrict movement, including a 6pm to 6am curfew enforced by state security agents. The curfew was starkly similar to the one imposed by the colonial governmentduring the liberation struggle.
Government, known for using brute force, did not attempt to deal with the concerns citizens were raising, but instead, got into a state of paranoia, and began a systematic targeting of individuals and issuing very strong threats to the people of Zimbabwe.
On July 20, police arrested Ngarivhume and Chin’ono, and ironically charged them for inciting violence, and at the time of writing of this report, the two are still languishing in remand prison after the State did all it could to deny them bail.
By the end of the month, and by July 31, the State’s paranoia had reached unprecedented levels, and dozens had been arrested, hundreds brutalised, and Zimbabwe was in a state of fear, with the state security agents deployed in every part of the country, rural and urban.
The mass arrests, abductions and assaults targeted journalists, human rights defenders, opposition activists, and anyone who was courageous enough to utilise their constitutional right to self expression including international award winning author Tsitsi Dangarembga.