Emmerson Mnangagwa cancels Davos trip, heads back home to Zimbabwe

20 January 2019 - 19:53 By Ray Ndlovu In Harare
President Emmerson Mnangagwa
President Emmerson Mnangagwa
Image: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Sunday evening announced that he would not attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.

Mnangagwa took to his official Twitter handle and said his finance minister would instead represent the Zimbabwe delegation at the WEF.

The three-day global showcase gets underway on Tuesday and ends on Friday.

“In light of the economic situation, I will be returning home after a highly productive week of bilateral trade and investment meetings. We will be ably represented in Davos by the minister of finance, Mthuli Ncube. The first priority is to get Zimbabwe calm, stable and working again,” he wrote.

Ironically, Mnangagwa’s message on Twitter would have reached very few citizens at home.

A partial internet shutdown remains in place and both mobile and internet service providers have been prevented by government from allowing citizens to access to social media sites.

The directive to shut down the internet by authorities is set to be challenged in the high court tomorrow. The challenge through an urgent application was brought by the Media Institute of Southern Africa’s Zimbabwe chapter and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

Mnangagwa’s trip abroad, after he announced a 150% fuel price hike last weekend has been widely criticized as being insensitive. He travelled to Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan — with Switzerland initially set to have been his last stop during his five-nation tour. He hired a private Boeing Dreamliner 787 for the trip.

The fuel price hike resulted in violent protests breaking out last week and coincided with a three-day stayaway called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, which brought business to a standstill.

A joint operation by the army and police led to a widespread crackdown on citizens. The brutal crackdown has attracted global condemnation with the United Nations on Friday warning against the heavy-handed response by security forces against citizens.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, a coalition of pro-democracy groups, on Friday said it had recorded 844 human rights violations during the three-day stay away.

It put the death toll at 12 people, recorded 78 gunshot related injuries and said 242 people were assaulted, tortured and treated inhumanely by security officials.

At a joint media briefing on Saturday, a trio of police and army spokespersons said the army was not behind the brutal crackdown on citizens.

Instead, Charity Charamba, the police spokesperson and who spoke on behalf of the trio said the crackdown had been led by rogue soldiers, who stole military regalia and were now terrorizing citizens.

“Some of these uniforms worn by criminals were seized by rogue elements during the recent riots in Epworth and Chegutu. We are therefore giving an ultimatum to individuals who have retired, deserted, absented themselves without official leave from service to immediately handover uniforms either to the police or the Zimbabwe Defence Forces,” she said at the media briefing.

Roadblocks have intensified in the capital, Harare and in Bulawayo, the second largest city—with searches of vehicles and citizens asked to produce proof of identification.

Despite the increased presence of police and army, organisers have called for a second stay away this week. Most banks, schools, supermarkets and businesses shutdown last week.

Economic observers have warned that the economy is unable to sustain a series of back-to-back stay aways and said job losses and company closures were imminent.

The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries in its latest report said that capacity utilisation of industries would fall this year to just 34.3%, reversing an improvement seen last year of 48.2%.

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