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Post-Mugabe euphoria fades with Zimbabwe’s elections

August 06, 2018

HARARE: When Robert Mugabe’s brutal rule finally came to an end, millions in Zimbabwe dreamed of a brighter future -- but many fear his freshly elected former ally Emmerson Mnangagwa will simply offer more of the same.

In a Harare store specialising in decorative copper products, manager Christine said many Zimbabweans "want to run away" after a deadly crackdown on protesters alleging rigging in the first elections since Mugabe’s ouster last year.

"It’s really hard having your friends, having your relatives being shot while they are minding their own business," she said. Mnangagwa, chosen to lead the ruling ZANU-PF party after the military intervention that brought down Mugabe, was declared the winner Friday with 50.8 percent of the vote.

It was just enough to avoid a run-off round with opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, who has rejected the results as fraudulent and vowed a legal challenge. Mnangagwa has hailed the election as a fresh start for Zimbabwe after years of repression and economic mismanagement under Mugabe.

His promise to entice back investors is appealing in a country with wrecked public services, mass poverty and mass unemployment. But while Mnangagwa has promised an investigation into the post-election killings, rights groups worry the crackdown was a sign of more Mugabe-style repression to come.

"The same soldiers who removed Mugabe and we celebrated are now being sent to kill people after we voted," said Douglas Kumire, whose brother Ishmael was one of the six people killed. On the night after Mnangagwa’s victory, Christine said she saw troops beating civilians in Chitungwiza, a dormitory town south of Harare.

"I don’t even know why they were beating those people -- they haven’t done anything wrong," she said. "It was the soldiers, they are still out there. We are even scared of going out."

A woman passing by the shop, who said one of her domestic staff lived in the town, was aghast at news of the beatings. "It’s horrible. But I didn’t think this sort of thing would end when Mugabe went, no," said the pensioner, who declined to be named.

For Christine, Mnangagwa -- nicknamed "The Crocodile" -- is "the most dangerous one", perhaps more so than Mugabe. "When he came, people knew it was the change of the bus driver -- but the bus was the same," she said.

Chamisa, a 40-year-old lawyer and pastor, campaigned hard among young and urban electorates and won more than twice as many votes as Mnangagwa in Harare, where many professionals dream of better opportunities. Businessman Emmanuel Masvikeni, 46, said people were "pessimistic, disappointed" about how events have unfolded since Mugabe’s departure.