HARARE, Zimbabwe — When Robert Mugabe was ousted as president of Zimbabwe in a coup in 2017, many within the nation hoped for an finish to the repression and mismanagement that had characterised his 37 years in workplace.

However when protesters tried to assemble on Friday within the capital, Harare, the safety companies reacted in a way paying homage to the Mugabe period. They shut down many of the metropolis, arrested a number of authorities critics and compelled greater than a dozen others into hiding — highlighting how the nation has, within the eyes of the opposition, slipped from dangerous to worse below Mr. Mugabe’s successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mr. Mnangagwa took energy on a promise of renewal, however his critics affiliate him with the identical excesses that outlined Mr. Mugabe’s legacy: authoritarian rule, monetary missteps, rampant graft, plummeting living standards and a teetering financial system.

“In actuality, there’s nothing new,” stated Obey Sithole, a number one opposition campaigner who went into hiding days earlier than the deliberate protests. “As an alternative, we now have seen the perfection of the artwork of repression.”

And the federal government’s halting response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has uncovered the terrible state of the nation’s well being care system and led to additional allegations of corruption, has fueled widespread anger.

In an interview with The Times last year, Mr. Mnangagwa, 77, described himself as a pacesetter with a “new dispensation.” However in some respects, Mr. Mnangagwa — a veteran of the guerrilla conflict that ended white-minority rule, and certainly one of Mr. Mugabe’s most trusted sidekicks — has proved to be an excellent harsher president than Mr. Mugabe.

The variety of opposition activists charged with a type of treason throughout Mr. Mnangagwa’s three years in workplace is already increased than throughout Mr. Mugabe’s whole tenure, based on analysis by a coalition of 22 Zimbabwean rights teams.

Opposition activists hoped to carry mass rallies on Friday, partly in response to a brand new wave of arrests and abductions that started in Might, when three feminine opposition activists, together with a lawmaker, have been kidnapped, crushed and sexually assaulted by folks they are saying have been plainclothes authorities brokers. (The federal government denied involvement and, after being handled in hospital, the ladies have been charged with false accusations.)

However Mr. Mnangagwa’s authorities refused to permit even this largely symbolic expression of dissent.

To discourage protesters within the prelude to the demonstrations, the police seized the chief of an opposition group who had been serving to to prepare the rally and a distinguished investigative journalist who had helped reveal a doable corruption scheme involving the nation’s well being minister, Obadiah Moyo. Greater than a dozen opposition politicians, activists and union leaders, together with Mr. Sithole, then went into hiding after the police named them on a needed checklist.

And on Friday, the police deployed personnel throughout the town, shutting down most main transit routes and deterring most would-be protesters from gathering. A number of of those that did attempt to assemble stated that they’d been detained, together with the creator Tsitsi Dangarembga, three days after her novel “This Mournable Physique” was longlisted for the Booker Prize, a prestigious British literary award.

“Throughout President Mugabe’s period, there have been severe, gross human rights violations,” stated Robson Chere, the top of a serious academics’ union, and a type of now in hiding. “However the present so-called new dispensation has gone a number of gears up.”

The state of affairs has led to tensions inside Mr. Mnangagwa’s political get together. A celebration official was fired this week after being accused of serving to to advertise the protests, and the federal government itself has been compelled to disclaim that the army that introduced Mr. Mnangagwa to energy was now looking for to oust him.

These hoping to exhibit on Friday had an additional grievance — Mr. Mnangagwa’s dealing with of the coronavirus disaster, which critics see as reflective of his authorities’s wider faults.

Already near collapse earlier than the pandemic, hospitals lack sufficient medicine, ventilators, private safety tools and workers, as a result of many medical doctors and nurses have moved overseas in the hunt for higher pay or gone on strike to protest their low wages.

Law enforcement officials have used coronavirus restrictions as a pretext to arrest the federal government’s political opponents, based on Zimbabwe Legal professionals for Human Rights, a watchdog group primarily based in Harare.

Mr. Moyo, the well being minister, was fired in July after shopping for coronavirus provides at inflated costs by a multimillion-dollar contract with an obscure overseas agency that was signed with out the approval of the related state authorities, based on court docket paperwork.

Mr. Moyo, who has but to get replaced, was arrested and is on trial.

“The system has collapsed below our president,” stated Dr. Peter Magombeyi, a former head of the Zimbabwe Hospital Medical doctors Affiliation, a labor union. “We’re noticing that there aren’t any medical doctors, there aren’t any nurses, there aren’t any medicine, not sufficient private protecting tools, no hospital C.E.O.s, no well being care minister.”

The management of Mr. Mnangagwa’s get together had urged supporters to “tackle” the protesters, and tried to painting the potential of demonstrations as a Western plot.

“None of it’s coming from Zimbabweans,” stated Tafadzwa Mugwadi, the get together’s director of data.

One other get together official, Patrick Chinamasa, stated that the American ambassador to Zimbabwe, Brian A. Nichols, is perhaps expelled from the nation, after the U.S. Embassy issued a series of tweets criticizing a few of the arrests this month.

Mr. Chinamasa stated at a information briefing on Monday that if Mr. Nichols have been to proceed “partaking in acts of mobilizing and funding disturbances, coordinating violence and coaching fighters,” then “our management is not going to hesitate to provide him marching orders.”

However in actuality, there’s loads of homegrown anger — not solely about rights violations, but additionally in regards to the dire state of the well being system and deteriorating dwelling circumstances. Corruption and mismanagement have led to the collapse of the financial system and huge underinvestment in infrastructure.

The state of affairs is compounded by worldwide sanctions on Zimbabwean people and establishments, that are potential obstacles to loans from the World Financial institution and the Worldwide Financial Fund.

Dr. Magombeyi, the previous medical doctors’ union head, provoked widespread horror this week when he shared a picture on social media of what he stated have been the corpses of seven stillborn infants at a single hospital in Harare. Citing medical doctors on the hospital, Dr. Magombeyi stated that the seven had all died on the identical evening, after a staffing scarcity prompted delays to their moms’ prenatal care.

Stagnant wages and rampant inflation have made fundamental medicines unaffordable to most sufferers.

In June, the annual inflation price was greater than 700 %, devaluing salaries and making widespread family items past the attain of many voters. For the reason that finish of Mr. Mugabe’s rule, which was itself marked by profound financial upheaval, the price of a loaf of bread has risen roughly 70-fold, turning it from a staple right into a luxurious.

In latest months, the nation’s electrical energy disaster has ebbed: Most households not face each day energy outages, partly as a result of the coronavirus restrictions have prompted a drop in demand.

However Zimbabweans nonetheless face each day water shortages. Elements of Harare obtain working water solely a few times per week, forcing many to line up for hours at wells, springs and streams.

In opposition to this backdrop, Mr. Mnangagwa prompted additional anger this week by saying a plan to boost $3.5 billion by authorities bond gross sales to compensate white farmers who have been violently expelled from their land below Mr. Mugabe. However there was no equally bold plan to finance enhancements to the well being system or water infrastructure.

“We’ve suffered sufficient,” stated Denis Chengeto, a 55-year-old unemployed trainer, talking forward of the protests on Thursday. “We’ve a authorities that doesn’t care.”

However after the federal government locked down the town on Friday, Mr. Chengeto stated he was now too frightened to protest.

“No person could hear my voice at the moment,” he stated on Friday. “I do know troopers gained’t hesitate to shoot at anybody if we go on the streets.”

Jeffrey Moyo reported from Harare; and Patrick Kingsley from Berlin.