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Zimbabwe Marks One Year After Mugabe's Ouster

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Human rights groups accuse President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government of high handiness and not allowing opposition and dissent. Here police block opposition members, Aug. 1, 2018, in Harare from protesting against delaying in announcement of July 30 elections.

One year ago, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe resigned after 37 years in power. Some Zimbabweans say not much has changed since then, despite vows by new President Emmerson Mnangagwa to allow more freedoms and fix the economy. Officials of the ruling ZANU-PF party say Mnangagwa needs more time.

Zimbabweans last November took to the streets to celebrate after Robert Mugabe gave in to military-led pressure and street protests and resigned, ending his nearly four decades in power.

Protester Omali Magama hoped after three years as a vendor, his bachelor's degree in archaeology from the University of Zimbabwe was now going pay off. But a year later, he still sells hair accessories and applies makeup in a stall in Harare's central business district.

He is bitter toward Mugabe and his successor Mnangagwa.

A year after Robert Mugabe left the helm of Zimbabwe, Omali Magama in Harare, Nov. 15, 2018, says he feels betrayed by the system he believed would help him achieve his dreams.
A year after Robert Mugabe left the helm of Zimbabwe, Omali Magama in Harare, Nov. 15, 2018, says he feels betrayed by the system he believed would help him achieve his dreams.

​"Comparing what I studied and what I am doing now, I feel robbed actually and kinda degraded," he said. "What I am doing can be done by any guy. You do not need a degree to do that."

He said when November came last year, "it was a very emotional moment" for him.

"We thought finally change has come," he said. "I could not contain the joy. We thought what we have been waiting finally come. But a few months later, up to this day, it was just an illusion."

Supporters of President Emmerson Mnangagwa display a banner in Harare, April 18, 2018, showing what the new government is promising Zimbabweans.
Supporters of President Emmerson Mnangagwa display a banner in Harare, April 18, 2018, showing what the new government is promising Zimbabweans.

Tafadzwa Mugwadi, a supporter of the ruling ZANU-PF party, said people should have faith in Mnangagwa's administration. He believes everything is pointing to a positive future for Zimbabwe.

"There were a lot of things which were happening in our country before this dispensation," he said, "But here we are with President Emmerson Mnangagwa. A lot of industries are re-opening. If you go in mining areas, there is a hive of activity that shows that Zimbabwe is restoring production once more; we are moving through the right channels."​

The army led the protests in Harare in November 2017 that led to then-President Robert Mugabe ending his 37 years in power in Zimbabwe.
The army led the protests in Harare in November 2017 that led to then-President Robert Mugabe ending his 37 years in power in Zimbabwe.

Dissent and press freedom

When Mugabe resigned, many Zimbabweans hoped the government would tolerate more dissent and allow freedom of the press. But the early signs are not encouraging. Media Institute of Southern Africa Director Tabani Moyo says restrictions on the media remain in place.

"It is clearly painting a picture of where we are headed," he projected. "Though there are positive pronouncements that they are interested in moving with speed in reforming the media sector, in terms of practicalities they remain vague and they are nor showing any signs of movement. ... So there is no difference whatsoever in terms of where we are coming from the Mugabe regime and the Mnangagwa regime."

A ZANU-PF official said the Mnangagwa government needs more time to undo nearly 40 years of Mugabe's rule.In the meantime, the jobless, like Magama, say they can not wait long.

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