Amid a spiralling economic and political crisis, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa addressed the people of his country on August 4. His speech, though sudden — four days after his government’s violent clampdown on the July 31 citizen protests — was highly anticipated. There may have been a desperate hope among some sections of the bruised citizenry that the president would, perhaps in the remotest of ways, acknowledge their suffering and hint at atoning for the state’s brutality.

However, the “crocodile” neither acknowledged the legitimacy of their widespread grievances against his leadership nor took any responsibility for bringing the country to this precipice. Instead, Mnangagwa argued that his administration “has been undermined by the divisive politics of the opposition, sanctions, cyclones, droughts and now Covid-19”, and blamed widespread protests on “a few rogue Zimbabweans acting in league with foreign detractors”. The president’s speech exposed a tone-deaf and...

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