In recent months, Zimbabwe has struggled with civil unrest as the population turns against strongman President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mnangagwa succeeded authoritarian leader Robert Mugabe after a military coup, and many Zimbabweans hoped he would lead the country into a new age of peace and prosperity. However, under Mnangagwa’s rule, Zimbabwe has faced ethnic tensions, and a severe economic crisis exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, public sector corruption and allegations of graft at the highest levels of Zimbabwe’s government has led to public discontent which has manifested itself through the proliferation of popular protests. In late July, the Mnangagwa government deployed the military to the streets of the capital Harare to disperse crowds who had gathered to protest the economic situation in the country. Hyperinflation has devalued the Zimbabwean currency, and the country’s economy has flatlined as a result of decades of corruption and mismanagement. The United Nations warned that 60% of Zimbabwe’s population was at risk of malnutrition and starvation if aid was not urgently delivered. However, Zimbabwean officials have frequently profited off of international aid shipments, with some authority figures making millions of dollars from shady business dealings in relation to international aid. Furthermore, the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the crisis in Zimbabwe, as shortages of medical equipment have handicapped the ability of medical professionals to treat the infected. Doctors staged a strike to protest the government’s failure to procure vital equipment, and Zimbabwean hospitals are ill-equipped to handle a major breakout.
Despite the protests in Zimbabwe being peaceful, the Mnangagwa government has done everything in its power to crush dissent. Journalists, activists, and members of the opposition have been imprisoned on bogus charges as the government cracks down. Police have also issued arrest warrants for human rights defenders battling corruption, and many people have been forced into hiding, fearing their lives are at risk from the government. The authorities have also begun detaining family members of people under illegitimate arrest warrants, and holding them until the accused turn themselves in. When the American ambassador to the country called on Zimbabwe to end the arbitrary detention of dissenting voices, Mnangagwa threatened to expel him.