Mnangagwa govt scores own goal

 Mnangagwa govt scores own goal
Published: 18 August 2019 (124 Views)
POLICE violently broke up anti-government protests in Harare yesterday, after jittery authorities had blocked a mass demonstration that had been planned by the country's main opposition in the capital city, through a surprise prohibition order that was issued late on Thursday night.

The refusal by authorities to allow the planned demo sparked widespread anger among opposition supporters, many of whom were in the city centre — resulting in some law enforcement agents charging at, and beating the largely peaceful protesters and other passers-by brutally. Police last night said they had arrested 91 people.

At the same time, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa vowed that the protests planned for the rest of the week around the country would go ahead, notwithstanding the unwillingness by fearful authorities to sanction the marches.

Speaking at a media conference in Harare, Chamisa also said Zimbabweans should brace for a "long winter of discontent" — emphasising that what had happened yesterday was only the beginning.

Chamisa also won wide praise after he decided against leading his supporters against the police, telling journalists that he did not want to "walk on dead bodies" — following the savage attacks on protesters and ordinary people by security agents.

Commenting on what had happened, human rights groups said President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government had scored "an own goal" by blocking the protests and later using "thuggish methods" to deal with peaceful civilians.

Political analysts also said Mnangagwa's government had shown that it was no different from former President Robert Mugabe's administration, which routinely used police and the military to crush peaceful protests.

All this came after Hararians had woken up to a heavy police presence and ubiquitous security checkpoints along main roads leading to the central business district (CBD), as authorities tried to thwart people from entering the city, following Thursday night's ban of the mass protests.

The armed police officers and soldiers who were assisting them to man the checkpoints ordered people off commuter omnibuses, while also rudely asking for their national identity cards and searching them.

But by 8am, it was clear that most people had opted not to report for work, with a few shops and companies making attempts to open for business. And the few people who made their way into the city centre met with the brutal force of unyielding police who indiscriminately beat up anyone within their sights.

Police officers also cordoned off the MDC's national headquarters, while others sprayed teargas and water cannons on passers-by and MDC supporters — in barbaric scenes which saw even some tourists and women with babies on their backs being savaged in the mayhem.

Within a few hours after that, Harare resembled a ghost city, with both traffic and pedestrians clearing away from the CBD amid chaotic scenes which were condemned by the United Nations and rights groups.

University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, said Mnangagwa's sincerity to doing things differently from Mugabe would now come under even more scrutiny after yesterday's attacks on civilians by police.

"Mnangagwa has got a legitimacy quagmire and the events that occurred today will further put his legitimacy into question.

"Zanu-PF has reasons to panic because this can easily degenerate into a Sudan kind of situation ... that's why government is trying to prevent the protests.

"They fear the worst and the removal of the government. Their paranoid approach is justified given the recent history in other parts of Africa," Masunungure told the Daily News.

The New-York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said yesterday's police brutality had only served to show that Mnangagwa's government was "not different" from Mugabe's previous one.

"The wanton and mindless police brutality against peaceful Zimbabweans in Harare today (yesterday), marked a new low for the Mnangagwa administration which now has been exposed to reveal the true and very ugly colours of this so-called new dispensation.

"There is virtually no respect for human rights and the rule of law. Protesters were peaceful and all the State-sponsored violence against them was uncalled for and most shameful.

"The world is watching and unfortunately such lust for violence by the police severely undermines the ongoing efforts by Zimbabwe to promote international re-engagements," Dewa Mavhinga, HRW director for southern Africa, said

Constitutional lawyer, Alex Magaisa, said the police had unwittingly turned the MDC demo into a stay-away — thereby validating the people's concerns in the process.

"The regime has successfully conjured up an alternative form of protest called stay-away. Harare's emptiness is itself a telling sign.
"They cannot pretend it is normal when the capital is so empty. If anything, the regime has unwittingly validated the protest," Magaisa said.

On Thursday evening, the police — who had been notified of the mass protests on August 5 — issued a prohibition order citing an alleged lack of manpower. But their numbers in Harare yesterday exposed this claim.

High Court Judge Joseph Musakwa also dismissed the MDC's urgent application yesterday to lift the ban.

MDC vice president Tendai Biti castigated the High Court ruling saying it allegedly reflected the State's "influence" on the judicial system.
"We argued that the issuance of the prohibition order was unlawful. In terms of section 26 of the Public Order and Security Act, any objection has to be made within seven days from the day that notification is given.

"It (the MDC's notification) was given on August 5. Therefore, seven days would have expired on August 12. The prohibition order was only issued at 9pm last night (August 15).

"Therefore, we had a procedural issue with the manner in which it was issued, and where you have a procedural issue, your remedy is review.

"Today the true colours of the so-called new dispensation have been exposed. The Constitution guarantees the right to demonstrate in terms of section 59 ... yet this fascist regime denied and proscribed this right to the people of Zimbabwe," Biti said.

"The government has no respect for the rights of the people of Zimbabwe. We have raised genuine issues of corruption, unemployment, shortages of fuel, basic commodities, and power outages, and as lawyers of this movement we do not accept the closure of the political space.

"They have banned our march, and we find it ironic that in government's papers they were saying they do not have enough manpower to accompany us in our march yet they have sufficient manpower to call off the entirety of Harare," he added.

Chamisa later told the media that he had decided to call off the protests instead of defying the court ruling because he did not want to "walk on dead bodies".

"We must thank the police, at least for once they went out of their way to shut down the country. We didn't want a shutdown.

"We … didn't want to risk people's lives by going ahead with the demonstrations because there will be blood on the streets, but we don't want to walk on dead bodies to the resolution of our crisis," Chamisa said.

Rights groups had reported that six pro-democracy activists, among them MDC officials, had been abducted ahead of yesterday's mass protests — with the government blaming Mugabe's loyalists for the kidnappings.

The secretary for Information, Nick Mangwana, said there was a rogue "third force" trying to tar Mnangagwa's image and derail his re-engagement with Western countries.

Yesterday's planned demonstrations were meant to protest the worsening economic hardships, the deteriorating standards of living and the rampant corruption in the country.

- dailynews

Tags: Mnangagwa,

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