Brutal regime, defiant protestors set Zim on fire
from MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare, Zimbabwe
HARARE – ZIMBABWE is burning, literary.
On Friday, police reacted heavy-handedly to one of the largest protests seen in decades as frustrated civilians showed their displeasure at the worsening economic and political crisis.
A coalition of opposition parties, led by President Mugabe’s fired deputy, Joice Mujuru, who is leader of the Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) and Mugabe’s longtime archrival Morgan Tsvangirai of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), organized the mass demonstrations which the police reacted to in trademark brutality.
Under the banner of National Electoral Reform Agenda , the opposition mobilised an estimated 200 000 protesters to demonstrate in the capital Harare demanding the government implements new electoral reforms to level the political playing field ahead of the 2018 elections.
Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, has been accused of vote rigging and violence to maintain his stranglehold on power. Protesters threatened to render Zimbabwe ungovernable.
On Friday, as in recent days, police fired teargas canisters to disperse protestors. Police deployed water canon and armoured vehicles in the capital city Harare to disperse the disgruntled youths. The government had earlier on called the military to be on the standby in a bid to quell the escalating protests.
Angry youths retaliated by setting some vehicles alight, barricading roads with burning tyres and destroying public facilities.
Ironically, in a long running defiance to court rulings by Mugabe’s government, the High Court had cleared the protests but Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo, declared the protests were “illegal.”
“We will not tolerate any illegal demonstration. If they elect to march unlawfully, the police are there to protect citizens from lawbreakers,” Chombo said at a press briefing in Harare, attended by Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi and State Security minister Kembo Mohadi.
“We have a moral duty to protect citizens of this country and people that do business so that they are not disrupted by malcontents. There is no ‘peaceful demonstration’ that has been held so far, all violent,” Chombo said.
Hence the law enforcers’ determination to crush the demonstrations on Friday.
However, protesters remained defiant amid the brutality.
“There is no amount of police brutality that can stop us now from demanding what is rightfully ours,” said Kudakwashe Masimiramiti of ZimPF, a youth member of the ZimPF, a splinter group of the ruling Zanu (PF) party.
“We want to know where the US$15 billion went? This is huge money capable of creating jobs, resuscitating our shutdown industries. The money was enough to develop new dams and infrastructure projects nationwide.”
He was alluding to the US15 billion in diamond revenue said to have disappeared from state coffers. This is the latest in a series of corruption scandals to rock the administration of Mugabe.
“We are sick and tired of this corrupt Zanu (PF) government. Since 1980, we have only known one leader while our neighbouring countries have seen change of presidents more than four times,” said Masimiramiti.
Speaking to CAJ News Africa on the sideline of the protests, Shadreck Muzanenhamo of MDC-T, said police had been provoking youth into violence.
“The protests started well and very peacefully, but the police triggered the violence when they fired teargas at us. We shall continue retaliating whenever attacked by the state security,” said Muzanenhamo.
He called for international intervention amid criticism regional bodies such as African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) were complicit in the crisis in Zimbabwe with their so-called policy of quiet diplomacy.
“We are also calling on the AU and SADC to intervene in the Zimbabwe crises, otherwise we will turn these protests into a full war,” said Muzanenhamo.
Earlier on, police arrested leader of the National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe, Sten Zvorwadza, for allegedly inciting public violence.
Spokesperson of #Tajakumuka spokesperson, Promise Mkwananzi, was also taken for questioning by police under similar allegations.
The #Tajakumuka has been at the forefront of mobilizing protests against Zimbabwe’s myriad of crises.
The arrested duo was detained at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Law and Order Section at the Harare Central police station at the time of publication.
Several people were injured while the value of property lost could not be immediately ascertained.
– CAJ News
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