ORGANISERS of Friday’s planned anti-government protests yesterday claimed they were summoned by securocrats for a briefing, amid reports government feared the demonstration could turn into another orgy of looting and violence.
BY Everson Mushava/Obey Manayiti
The protests are being organised by 18 opposition parties under the banner of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) to pressure the Zanu PF government and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to level the political playing field ahead of the 2018 elections.
Nera head of legal affairs, Douglas Mwonzora, told NewsDay that the (Harare province) Joint Operations Command (Joc) – comprising of heads of all State security agencies – was jittery over the planned demonstration.
Mwonzora said the officer commanding Harare police, Chief Superintendent Newbert Saunyama, summoned Nera leaders to appear before Joc yesterday morning to make their submissions regarding the Friday demonstration.
However, the meeting with Joc failed to take off after Saunyama said they were busy.
“Saunyama said Joc was busy. He also wanted (Nera secretary Joelson) Mugari to be present and will, therefore, invite us again,” Mwonzora said.
“We wanted to advise Joc that we would continue with last week’s protest that was disrupted by the police. We also wanted to complain about police behaviour.
“We had carried with us a copy of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission report, which admitted that the police fired teargas on citizens indiscriminately.”
Last Friday’s demonstration turned violent after police crushed it despite a High Court order allowing the protest to take place.
Nera convenor Didymus Mutasa said this week’s protests would be spread across all provinces.
Meanwhile, Harare was tense yesterday ahead of today’s #Tajamuka/Sesjikile-organised “national shutdown”, with the organisers vowing the stayaway would go ahead despite police threats to arrest the planners.
Since last Friday’s violent demonstrations, State security agents have maintained a heavy presence on the streets of Harare.
“We are not intimidated at all and the shutdown is going ahead,” Hardlife Mudzingwa, one of the protest co-ordinators, said.
“We are not surprised that the government is trying to intimidate its own citizens. The government has been a threat to citizens’ aspirations for a very long time as evidenced by the threat to block trade within Sadc through the introduction of Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016. This is a threat to people’s livelihoods. There is also rampant corruption and numerous roadblocks, among others,” he said.
Opposition parties and other social media movements, including #ThisFlower led by Sten Zvorwadza, have confirmed their participation in the protest, which is also aimed at forcing President Robert Mugabe to step down.
“Citizens are geared to up the game. We are very aware that the government is sponsoring violence, but that sponsored violence will backfire.
“We are aware how they are sponsoring it, but let the government leaders be warned that they will face the music. The government should also know the challenges that come with violence,” Zvorwadza said.
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said: “Definitely, yes, we are joining. The MDC-T has a policy of supporting all peaceful forms of protest against the Zanu PF regime. We are a party of the poor and downtrodden. We stand in solidarity with the wishes and aspirations of Tajamuka.”
Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume said intimidation would not yield any results.
“There is a lot of intimidation, but we are up to it. If we don’t fight, then what happens? We will lose more,” he said.
This came as the European Union issued a statement yesterday denouncing police brutality and calling on the government to ensure the public was allowed to freely express its grievances.