HARARE came to a standstill yesterday, as President Robert Mugabe’s government, in an unprecedented show of force, brought out its anti-riot hardware to ruthlessly crush a planned protest by opponents of his regime’s introduction of a surrogate currency, bond notes.
Zimbabwe’s capital was teeming with security agents, while roads leading into the central business district were littered with police checkpoints.
Hordes of police officers, armed to the teeth and singing liberation war songs, manned almost every corner of the city in anticipation of the protest that turned out to be a damp squib, amid reports of growing divisions within opposition and civil society ranks.
The demonstration had been organised by opposition parties and civil society groups in protest over the introduction of bond notes, as well as the unabated economic decay.
After braving the heavy police presence, a group of protesters gathered near the MDC-T headquarters around mid-morning to start their march, but a few metres into the demonstration along Nelson Mandela Avenue, police used water cannons, spraying bluish water to break up the march.
As the demonstrators fled in different directions, baton-wielding officers followed in hot pursuit.
As a result, several shops near Nelson Mandela Avenue were closed, while police sealed off Harvest House.
Journalists had to run for dear life, as police threatened to assault them together with suspected protesters.
On Tuesday, Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo threatened to crush the demonstration, saying the organisers had not sought police clearance, as required by the contentious Public Order and Security Act.
Numerous moves by the protesters to stage a comeback across the central business district were unsuccessful, as police reacted swiftly to the sporadic attempts.
As police made their patrols, passers-by tried to maintain their distance for fear of being rounded up.
MDC-T youth assembly boss, Happymore Chidziva claimed the demonstration was a success, although he deplored the police’s heavy-handedness.
“It was a success given that we were able to send our message clearly,” he said.
“The continued police brutality in dealing with peaceful protests is an indication of panic on the part of the regime. The number of people, who turned up and joined the demonstration shows that the people of Zimbabwe are fed up of this regime.
“The message was sent out and it is clear that people are not going to stand by and watch while the regime destroys the country. This is just but the beginning of resistance to the economic genocide presided over by Robert Mugabe’s government.”
Leading figures in the opposition movement, among them MDC-T president, Morgan Tsvangirai and his Zimbabwe People First counterpart, Joice Mujuru were conspicuous by their absence.
The two are leading figures of a loose coalition of opposition parties under the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) banner that was party to organising the protests.
Social movement, Tajamuka co-ordinator, Hardlife Mudzingwa said the fact that people came out to demonstrate and police decided to use brute force was evidence enough that the Zanu PF-led government was in panic mode.
“The general public has been reminded that the surrogate currency was an imposition and people should continue to voice their concerns. As usual, the State will not listen, but reacts by deploying its repressive apparatus,” he said.
Unconfirmed reports said at least six people were arrested during the demonstration.
Police spokesperson, Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba yesterday said she was yet to be briefed on what transpired during the day.
On Monday, police swooped on two Tajamuka leaders, Promise Mkwananzi and Mehluli Dube, who were addressing journalists in the capital. The pair was taken to court yesterday.
Recently, suspected State-sponsored militia reportedly abducted leaders of a failed demonstration dubbed #MunhuWeseMuRoad (Everyone onto the Streets) and one of the organisers, Patson Dzamara, was hospitalised after the attack, while his vehicle and a colleague’s were burnt to shells.
In the past few months, Zimbabwe has witnessed social unrest, with police involved in bloody clashes with pro-democracy protesters.
The State reacted by introducing Statutory Instruments to ban the demonstrations.
However, after the expiry of the regulations prohibiting demonstrations, the protests seemed to have lost some steam.
Title: Lockdown: Mugabe’s brute force on show
Author: OBEY MANAYITI
Source: News Day