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Strikes and Protests 2007- Save Zimbabwe Campaign
frustration brings hardening attitudes
March 16, 2007
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HARARE - As Zimbabwe's opposition groups vowed on Friday to keep
up the pressure on the government for "democratic change", a defiant
President Robert Mugabe lashed out at Western governments for supporting
and pro-democracy groups at a meeting issued a declaration committing
themselves to a "heightened momentum" of protest action, Nelson
Chamisa, spokesman for the main opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC), told IRIN.
under the auspices of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign (SZC), a pro-democracy
drive launched by several NGOs, labour unions, students and opposition
parties in February, was attended by both factions of the MDC.
Zimbabwe has been
in the spotlight since Sunday, when the police violently broke up
a prayer meeting they had declared illegal, beating protestors including
the opposition leadership. There was international condemnation
of the crackdown.
But the official
newspaper, The Herald, on Friday quoted Mugabe accusing western
governments of ignoring what he had said was MDC instigation of
the violence. "When they criticise government when it tries to prevent
violence, and punish perpetrators of that violence, we take the
position that they can go hang."
has vowed to use force to confront political "revolt", while the
MDC has tried to reach out to the security forces after the petrol-bombing
of a police camp on Tuesday in the capital, Harare, in which three
policewomen were injured.
"We are not fighting
the security forces, they are our brothers and sisters, who are
in the same predicament; we are fighting a dictatorial system,"
said Chamisa. "When you are bitten by a dog, you have to deal with
The MDC has denied
any involvement in the bomb and teargas attack on the Marimba police
A policeman, who
spoke to IRIN under condition of anonymity, described the "unbearable
conditions" the police now faced as a result of the political tension.
breaks out due to political disturbances, work becomes unbearable
for us as police officers. Since February we have not been allowed
to go off duty or on leave," he said.
"Our bosses say
the police force is understaffed and no-one should even think of
taking a rest. That means we are on duty 24 hours a day. The pressure
is even greater for us who are attached to PISI [the intelligence
unit] because we have to be out, in plain clothes, gathering information
on who is saying what and whether there are plans to carry out rallies
or demonstrations, and where," he complained.
"People are growing
increasingly angry with the police and army, as they say we are
being used by the government to beat them up, yet we will simply
be carrying out orders. It is not that we like to beat up people,
no. Remember, some of them are our relatives, friends and neighbours.
But we have to safeguard our jobs: employment is difficult to find
these days, and I have a family to look after."
He added: "Yes,
the people might hate us for simply being police officers, but they
should remember that we are also unhappy with the kind of life we
are living today: we buy from the same shops, board the same mode
of transport with them, and get very paltry salaries."
In a country with
a prostrate economy and an inflation rate of over 1,700 percent,
"I can't manage to send my child to a good school because my salary
is small, and every month I am forced to borrow from moneylenders,
who charge high interest," he said.
"Most of the time,
we go out to carry out our duties on empty stomachs and, because
these tasks are given at short notice, we can even go for a whole
day without food because the police force cannot manage to send
provisions whenever there are special assignments to be carried
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