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confidentially speaking

The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 23rd July 2020

Mass protest on 31 July will test Mnangagwa

Blue Lines

The prospects of the mass protests against grand corruption and economic mismanagement planned for 31 July triggering a popular uprising against Emmerson Mnangagwa's government are slim but not beyond the bounds of possibility. That is why on 20 July police arrested activist Jacob Ngarivhume, an organiser of the planned protest, and Hopewell Chin'ono, whose relentless investigative journalism last month exposed the involvement of state officials in siphoning off funds from over-priced medical equipment procurement. Both have been charged with promoting public violence. And then on 21 July, Mnangagwa announced a night curfew and fresh restrictions on movement, citing the coronavirus. Over 105,000 people have been arrested since March for violating regulations introduced ostensibly to stop the virus.

Social media has been buzzing with reports that some military officers, incensed by government graft and deepening hardship, are ready to turn against the regime.

A badly choreographed news conference last month dismissing any such threat raised opposition hopes further. Weeks later, Army Commander General Valerio Sibanda criticised politicians for betraying the liberation struggle. Yet, top military officers have benefited far more from Mnangagwa's regime than that of his predecessor Robert Mugabe. The key question is how far down the military hierarchy the largesse reaches. And for how much longer can the regime continue to buy the loyalty of the junior ranks.