Forces opposed to the government in Zimbabwe faced a wave of repression in the wake of incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa’s narrow win in a presidential election.
The military roamed the streets of the capital Harare and surrounding towns on Friday of last week.
Troops and armed thugs targeted leading members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition party. And the party headquarters in Harare were shut and surrounded by riot police on Sunday.
One activist described repression “at an astonishing level” and “worse than under Robert Mugabe”.
Mnangagwa of the ruling Zanu PF party won just over half the popular vote, meaning there was no need for a second round. His main rival Nelson Chamisa of the MDC gained 44.3 percent of the vote.
Zanu PF also came first in parliamentary and local elections that took place at the same time.
The elections were the first since dictator Robert Mugabe was forced to resign after a military coup last November. Mnangagwa took over as president and leader of Zanu PF.
Many working class people in Zimbabwe had hoped it would bring a break from the past. But the wave of repression after the election shows that Mnangagwa offers no genuine alternative for workers and the poor.
Mnangagwa was in charge of torture during the Mugabe regime in the 1980s.
Now he is planning a brutal package of free market reforms and wants to normalise relations with former colonial power Britain.
The military coup was the result of a bitter faction fight within Zanu PF over how to deal with a spiralling crisis of Zimbabwean capitalism.
A group around Mnangagwa thought that Mugabe had not pushed through free market reforms quickly enough. They also resented that too much power within the regime had become concentrated in the hands of Mugabe and Grace Mugabe.
Mnangagwa’s allies in Zanu PF moved shortly after Grace Mugabe pushed him out of his post as interior minister.
The toppling of Mugabe was greeted by genuine jubilation on the streets of Harare and there were protests by ordinary people during the coup.
But the hope that was unleashed didn’t find an outlet, partly because the MDC doesn’t offer a real alternative to the policies of Mnangagwa.
The MDC was set up by trade unions in the 1980s when Mugabe first began pushing through free market reforms.
But after years of battling against the Mugabe regime, the MDC leadership came to see the West and the free market as the only alternative to the regime.
Fresh off his election win, Mnangagwa will look to ramp up his attacks and cement his rule.
It will take mobilisations independent of both Zanu PF and the MDC to win real change for the working class and poor of Zimbabwe.