The Welshman Ncube-led MDC party yesterday claimed the swiftness at which police had cleared civil servants’ planned demonstration against Finance minister Tendai Biti tomorrow further exposed the force’s alleged bias.
The civil servants falling under the ambit of the Apex Council said they would picket Biti’s Harare office to push for a salary review after negotiations with government representatives ended in a deadlock.
Apex Council president Tendai Chikowore last Thursday said they had resolved to down tools tomorrow to pressure government to heed their demands.
Chikowore heads the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association, the largest teachers’ union, which is largely regarded as sympathetic to Zanu PF.
MDC spokesperson Kurauone Chihwayi said the speed at which police had approved the civil servants’ application raised suspicion.
“We think that they want to expose Biti as an individual,” he said.
“Whilst we appreciate that it’s a genuine issue, we wonder whether they were given clearance because they will demonstrate against a non-Zanu PF minister.
“We are not saying civil servants should not be given money. Their grievances should be addressed, but we are surprised why the police have decided to grant clearance when other groups have been denied.
“In our view as a party we believe that everybody who applies for clearance should be given clearance.
“It raises eyebrows when one group gets given clearance and yet others are denied and it makes them seem partisan because a number of MDC demonstrations have not been given clearance.”
Contacted for comment, police spokesperson Chief Inspector James Sabau denied the allegations saying clearance for any public function was awarded on merit.
“We never gave a clearance basing on individuals, civil servants were awarded clearance because they wanted to demonstrate but we were never told who the individual they would demonstrate against would be,” he said.
Chikowore also denied that the demonstration was targeted at Biti.
“First of all, I would like to make a correction: The demonstration is not against Minister Biti, it’s against the government,” she said. “Our understanding is that Minister Biti is the spokesperson of government and that is why we will engage him.”
Police usually do not allow groups known to be anti-Zanu PF to hold demonstrations.
Women of Zimbabwe Arise members are routinely arrested for holding protests throughout the country.