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Zimbabweans mark independence day as tense general election looms

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa   -  
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Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday vowed that general elections expected later this year would be free and fair.

His comments were made during a speech to mark the country’s 43 years of independence from British colonial rule.

Mnangagwa won the country’s disputed 2018 elections that his main rival, Nelson Chamisa, insists were rigged.

The latest polls, due to take place in July or August, are expected to be tense and come at a time when his ruling ZANU-PF party stands accused of cracking down on opposition voices.

It has been in power since leading Zimbabwe to freedom, but both rights organisations and analysts say the country is witnessing a deepening of authoritarian rule.

Human rights group, Amnesty International, on Tuesday described the situation as a rapidly shrinking civic space.

“Freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly have come under increasing attack. Dissenting voices are being criminalised,” said Amnesty’s Deputy Director for East and Southern Africa, Flavia Mwangovya.

“The authorities have refused to give clearance for some of the main opposition party’s rallies, arresting and convicting peaceful protesters, and using unnecessary and excessive force to stop protests.”

Mnangagwa faces widespread discontent as he struggles to ease entrenched poverty, end chronic power cuts, and crippling unemployment.

Analysts says the 2023 election is unlikely to bring Zimbabweans relief from the economic crisis which has been exacerbated by hyperinflation.

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