Authorities in Zimbabwe arrested an opposition lawmaker Monday for distributing masks demanding the removal of the country’s repressive socialist regime, local media reported.
Police arrested Prince Dubeko Sibanda, who serves as a Member of Parliament (MP) and MDC Alliance Matabeleland North chairman, in the city of Bulawayo for distributing face masks inscribed “#ZanuPFMustGo,” a reference to the left-wing party formerly led by late Robert Mugabe that still rules Zimbabwe by decree.
According to The New Zimbabwe, Sibanda announced his arrest on the party’s WhatsApp group.
“I am currently at the Bulawayo Law and Order where I have been called for an interview on allegations of distributing face masks inscribed #zanupfmustgo,” he wrote.
Sibanda’s lawyer, Nqobani Sithole, also confirmed his arrest to the Zimbabwean daily.
“Yes, Hon. Sibanda has been arrested. He is currently at the Bulawayo Law and Order. He is facing charges of inciting public violence,” Sithole said.
HAPPENING RIGHT NOW: Honourable Prince Dubeko Sibanda, MDC-A MP for Binga North at Bulawayo Central Police Station, waiting for Law and Order officers to answer incredible and outrageous charges about the #ZanuPFMustGo mask that he's wearing!#ZanupfMustGo pic.twitter.com/TVkajfWAp9
— Prof Jonathan Moyo (@ProfJNMoyo) August 24, 2020
The arrest is the latest example of political repression at the hands of Emmerson Mnangagwa’s socialist regime. Also this month, police arrested journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and Jacob Ngarivhume, the leader of the Transform Zimbabwe political party, on charges of urging people to “participate in public violence” after they encouraged people to join anti-government protests against the Mnangagwa regime. Human rights groups say the two men have since been kept in leg shackles, deprived of food and medical treatment, and stripped of their constitutional rights.
After seizing power following the removal of Mugabe in 2017, Mnangagwa was “re-elected” the following year in elections denounced by many international observers as neither free nor fair. Having promised to reform Zimbabwe after years of repression and economic catastrophe, Mnangagwa has ended up governing in very much the same style as his predecessor, overseeing egregious human rights abuses, and continued financial meltdown.
Last year, a United Nations report warned that the country was on the brink of “man-made starvation” as a result of Mnangagwa’s policies. The New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch outlined in its 2019 report on the country that despite Mnangagwa insisting upon his commitment to human rights reforms, Zimbabwe remained “highly intolerant of basic rights, peaceful dissent, and free expression in 2019.”
“During nationwide protests in mid-January, following the president’s sudden announcement of a fuel price increase, security forces responded with lethal force,” the organization noted. “In the months that followed, several civil society activists, political opposition leaders, and other critics of the government were arbitrarily arrested, abducted, beaten, or tortured. Little to no efforts were made to bring those responsible for the abuses to justice.”