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Strikes and Protests 2007/8 - Teachers and Lecturers
cracks whip to warn opponents
February 22, 2007
HARARE – President
Robert Mugabe’s government has intensified a crackdown against the
opposition, arresting some of its leaders and banning
street protests, in a move political analysts said was meant
to warn opponents on the futility of challenging the veteran leader.
arrested 40 people over the past few days following weekend clashes
with opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters
who tried to march last Friday and following riotous scenes in Harare’s
working class suburb of Highfield on Sunday when armed police stopped
a High Court sanctioned rally.
Some of those
arrested included MDC secretary general Tendai Biti and Glen View
legislator Paul Madzore, who were later released on bail by a Harare
Magistrates court after being charged with public violence.
The police have
been in a combative mood since then and on Wednesday announced a
ban on political rallies and protests in Harare's volatile townships,
a move analysts said was meant to reinforce Mugabe’s view that the
government was still in control.
“This is a warning
to all those who dare to challenge the regime,” said John Makumbe,
of Zimbabwe political science lecturer and a strong Mugabe critic.
is marshalling all its forces to say ‘if you want a fight we are
ready’. Make no mistake, the government will not let the opposition
hold a rally or protest because there is fear – presumably rightly
so - that it can explode and sweep Mugabe from power,” he added.
lawyer and the coordinator of Crisis
in Zimbabwe Coalition (CZC), Jacob Mafume, said the government
clampdown on dissension was meant to dissuade ordinary citizens
from a popular revolt that he said looked imminent.
CZC campaigns for democratic change in Zimbabwe, said: “These strong
arm tactics are synonymous with a state of emergency. The idea is
to dissuade people from a popular uprising which looks imminent.”
are rising fast in the southern African country as a steep economic
crisis takes its toll on a population grappling with inflation of
nearly 1 600 percent, the highest in the world and surging unemployment
have worsened following proposals by Mugabe’s ZANU PF to extend
his rule under an election harmonisation plan, which will see presidential
elections scheduled next year coinciding with parliamentary polls
and civil groups have condemned the move, saying Zimbabwe cannot
afford to have Mugabe in charge for an additional two years. They
have threatened to roll out mass protests to block the plan.
officials said the weekend clashes signalled the start of the protests.
MDC leader Morgan
Tsvangirai said on Monday Mugabe and ZANU PF were at their weakest
and now resorted to militia tactics to keep a tight lid on unrest,
but warned that the opposition’s anti-government struggle was gaining
Nelson Chamisa on Wednesday vowed that the opposition party would
resist the police ban on political meetings and protests, saying
the police action was akin to imposing “a state of emergency.”
“We are going
to defy that ban,” said Chamisa. “We are going to continue with
the people's project of emancipation. The streets shall bring freedom.
It's now confrontation. We have lined up a series of demonstrations
and we shall not relent."
warned that Mugabe, who turned 83 years yesterday and a master of
political intrigue would continue to rely on security forces to
crush protests, which he sees as part of a wider strategy sponsored
by Western governments and meant to remove him from power.
of Africa’s few remaining big men rulers, has kept opponents at
bay through tough policing, vote rigging, and an elaborate political
patronage system, which rewards loyal supporters while imposing
severe punishment on rivals.
said the veteran leader - who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence
in 1980 – had ordered the crackdown to once again set an example
to would-be protesters that the government would not sit by and allow
itself to be swept from power through a popular wave of protests.
“There is no doubt as to the extent to which this regime will go
to remain in power, it will defend itself fiercely and brutally
too. I see Mugabe taking advantage of this crackdown to abuse people’s
rights in the name of defending national security.” – ZimOnline
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