Between March and June 2021, the Zimbabwe
Peace Project documented 53 cases of unlawful
detention of citizens by the police and over 400
cases of harassment and intimidation, with the
chief perpetrators being the Zimbabwe Republic
Police (ZRP). These statistics can significantly
explain how the ruling party has continued to use
government security apparatus to clamp down on
civil rights and political activists., with the ultimate
aim to crush any dissent ahead of the 2023
In June, Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs
Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi confirmed government’s
intention to continue using arrests as a tool to
In an interview with South African broadcaster,
eNCA, Ziyambi said.
“These so-called opposition people or activists,
they break the rules, the police will arrest…they
must obey our laws and if they do that, we will
forever co-exist in a peaceful manner,” he said.
In other words, Ziyambi was threatening that if any
rules were broken, there would be ‘no peace’
President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his
administration promised a raft of reforms in 2017
after he successfully ousted the late and former
president Robert Mugabe in a military coup, but
nearly four years later, his rule has been
characterized by a brazen assault on human rights
and arrests and abduction of civil rights and
The ZRP, which has conveniently played the role of
enabling the selective application of the law in
favour of the ruling party, has continued to outdo
itself in selectively applying the law.
The COVID-19 outbreak has come right in time for
the ZRP to conveniently bar any opposition
political and civil society activities, while at the
same time, allowing Zanu PF political activities to
For example, on 22 May 2021, police from the
Internal Security Intelligence approached MDC
Alliance officials intending to conduct a cleanup in
some parts of Harare and ordered the exercise to
In the same month, police arrested opposition
politician Jacob Ngarivhume as he conducted a
clean-up exercise in Mbare.
In all the opposition activities that police banned,
they claimed they were following COVID-19
In the same month, Zanu PF officials were
reportedly forcing teachers to attend rallies in
This was in addition to the party’s acceleration of
its restructuring exercise, where officials in districts
and wards were reportedly gathering people to
participate in the formation of the party’s local
structures, known as cell groups.
In addition to the police using selective methods,
some Zanu PF officials were let off the hook
despite having taken part in the harassment,
intimidation and assault of opposition activists.
One example is in Kadoma, where Zanu PF activists
allegedly assaulted an opposition supporter who
had commented on the country’s economic
meltdown. The victim, who suffered a damaged ear
drum during the assault, made a report to the
police, but no arrests were made.
In Chegutu, an MDC Alliance Secretary in
Mashonaland West, Tawanda Bvuma escaped an
abduction attempt after two off-road vehicles
blocked his vehicle and he had to flee on foot.
The assailants are believed to be state agents
working with the ruling Zanu PF to intimidate
opposition activists ahead of the 2023 elections.
Only in July, police failed to disperse a gathering of
thousands of Johane Marange Apostolic Sect
members gathered in Bocha for their annual
The Sect leaders have publicly vowed their
allegiance to Zanu PF and have continued to
‘order’ their members to vote for the ruling party.
President Mnangagwa as well as his predecessor
the late Robert Mugabe visited the shrine
religiously each year.
Generally, the prevailing situation points to a
collusion between the law enforcement agents and
the ruling party, a trend that is likely to play a
central role in defining the course of electoral
campaigns ahead of 2023.
Already, police have had a clear, long-standing
record of arbitrarily arresting any individuals who
dare oppose government and it appears this is not
about to change, if not, it is likely to get worse
considering the fact that the independence of the
judiciary has been whittled down in the past year.
Through a constitutional amendment, President
Mnangagwa gave himself unfettered powers to
appoint senior judges without them going through
a public interview process.
President Mnangagwa also reappointed Luke
Malaba as Chief Justice despite the fact that he had
reached the ceiling age of 70. The court process to
determine if he will continue are still in process,
but what has so far happened show that there is a
concerted effort to ensure that the judiciary serves
the interests of the President and subsequently the
This, together with the police’s partisan approach,
will seal the fate, not just for the opposition
political players, but for the civil rights activists,
who have been labelled as sellouts and terrorists
by President Mnangagwa himself.
In his own words in July, Mnangagwa said,
“detractors, sellouts and their families must forever
be silenced.” Disturbing