In the Shona language, Nyamavhuvhu (August) signals the end of winter. The strong winds carry away the frost as they usher in the warmth of summer. With the silent strength of a new season, public discontent towards President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s failing socio-economic policies sweeps across Zimbabwe, manifesting itself through mounting displeasure and the growing threat of civil unrest. On the streets of the capital, Harare, a middle-aged woman lies unconscious on the asphalt. An uncanny silence hangs in the air, punctuated only by the sound of water cannons patrolling the street and a sea of riot police conversing in hushed tones with each other. The blue-helmeted police, a signature of the Robert Mugabe era, march in straight lines through the central business district. Businesses are closed. Thick clouds of off-white teargas fill the sky. An old, grey-haired man who is left behind by the fleeing crowd is kicked in the ribs by two police officers and dragged by his side. A young man who tries to assist the stricken woman is arrested and bundled into a police truck. Elsewhere, Red Cross volunteers attend to an old woman who has suffered injuries to her head after being beaten.
Protesters chanted songs similar to those sung during the liberation struggle. They sat in the middle of the road, in an act of peaceful protest. As they sat, a wave of baton-wielding riot police charged at them in an attempt to disperse the growing crowd. Many, including older people and women, who could not run away as fast as the more youthful protesters, were badly beaten. The violent police clampdown is just the latest action in a tale of unbroken state repression that continues from Mugabe’s era.
The perpetrators have yet to be indicted or held accountable for the loss of life, despite a theatrical commission of inquiry launched by Mnangagwa in a bid to repair his already crumbling international image.