Wednesday 26 June 2019

There is not a rift, says Mnangagwa

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Photo: AP
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Photo: AP

MacDonald Dzirutwe

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa has dismissed rumours of a rift with his deputy, which have gathered momentum since he promised action in response to a brutal security crackdown that began last month while he was abroad.

Mnangagwa has claimed that "not a single person" had shown him evidence of divisions between him and Constantino Chiwenga.

The coup that toppled Robert Mugabe in November 2017 was led by Chiwenga, who Harare newspapers have cited officials as saying is now effectively in charge of the country.

Brushing off the speculation, Mnangagwa said he and Chiwenga "are comrades and understand each other better than you think". The media spokesman who the two men share did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The president also shrugged off telephone calls he said he received while abroad, from an official who told him he would not be allowed to return to Zimbabwe because of a coup.

"I laughed and advised that person to enjoy a peaceful night's sleep," the president was quoted as saying.

The crackdown began in mid-January in response to violent protests that were triggered by Mnangagwa's decision to increase the price of fuel by 150pc. He returned home early from a four-nation official tour when the unrest escalated, promising to clamp down on abuse by security services and investigate any illegal actions against protesters.

Lawyers and rights groups say that, despite this, hundreds of people remain in detention, with many having been denied access to legal representation. They say 12 people were killed during the protests while police say three died.

Residents of Harare say scores of people suspected of involvement in the protests have been dragged from their homes while some opposition lawmakers have gone into hiding.

The persistence of the crackdown has led to speculation that Mnangagwa is not in full control of the military, while high and still rising inflation continues to erode Zimbabweans' purchasing power.

Sunday Independent

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