In 2020, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) suspended the previously scheduled by-elections to fill seats in the country’s national assembly and local authority positions. The suspensions were effected by the government’s Covid-19 regulatory ban on public gatherings, in order to control the spread of the virus amidst the global pandemic. Two years later, president Emmerson Mnangagwa has approved March 26 as the date for the long-awaited by-elections, however, him and his ruling party Zanu PF have been consistently accused of stifling opposition parties ahead of the coming polls.

On Saturday, police in Zimbabwe prevented opposition party leader Nelson Chamisa from holding a scheduled rally in Marondera, a city located 70 kilometres away from capital city Harare. Despite a government-sanctioned ban on protests and large political gatherings, thousands of Zimbabweans supporting the Chamisa-led Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) took the streets, in defiance of an order that exemplifies the current administration’s attitude towards civil dissent. Thankfully, no violent acts took place, with Chamisa dismissing his supporters in order to avoid any fatal happenings.

The rally also signalled the deep dissatisfaction of the Zimbabwean populace with the Mnangagwa-led government, which they hoped would bring about a positive turn in economic and political fortunes following the ousting of former strongman president Robert Mugabe. In nearly four years, Mnangagwa’s leadership tenure has deepened the country’s economic woes, with inflation continuing to rise as well as the continuation of rampant corruption, while democratic ideals are being flouted in much the same way Mugabe did. It has worsened citizen’s distrust for government, and while thousands are impassioned against the current administration, political apathy is now rife amongst a significant portion of Zimbabweans who are solely focused on survival and don’t believe elections will solve the country’s myriad of systemic problems.