Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, accused of stepping up a crackdown on any dissenting voices in the run-up to this year’s presidential election, promised a “free and fair” election.
Running for re-election in the August vote, the 80-year-old leader called for a “no to violence, before, during and after” the vote in a speech to mark the 43rd anniversary of the former British colony’s independence, but the date has not yet been confirmed.
“My government has taken steps to ensure free, fair and credible elections”, he said in the small town of Mount Darwin, about 155 km northeast of the capital Harare.
The southern African country’s political history is marked by violence and intimidation during elections. Mnangagwa came to power in 2017 in a coup against the country’s strongman, Robert Mugabe, and narrowly won the presidential election the following year with 50.8% of the vote.
The party of his main rival, Nelson Chamisa, 45, accuses him of repressing political opponents. In recent weeks, opposition meetings have been obstructed and officials, including members of parliament, have been arrested. Unable despite promises to revive an economy that has languished for two decades, Emmerson Mnangagwa is facing growing discontent.
In his speech on Tuesday, he warned against “voices, foreign or local, including rogue NGOs” that are sowing “seeds of division and discord. Parliament passed a controversial law in early February drastically restricting the freedoms of NGOs, placing them under government control and subject to possible sanctions.