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  • Strikes and Protests 2007- Save Zimbabwe Campaign

  • Zim opposition says Harare under virtual state of emergency
    Patricia Mpofu, ZimOnline
    March 21, 2007

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    HARARE – The Zimbabwean government has imposed an undeclared curfew in most suburbs in Harare forcing shops and bars to close as early as 7pm as political tensions rise in the troubled southern African country.

    The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party said on Wednesday the latest crackdown amounted to a virtual declaration of a state of emergency.

    Roadblocks have been posted on all major roads leading into the city centre while armed riot police have maintained a heavy presence in Harare’s working class suburbs, the bedrock of opposition support.

    "The townships have virtually been declared no-go areas when night falls," said Tendai Biti, the secretary general of the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC faction.

    "We have received reports that residents in most of these townships are not allowed to go out at night at times as early as 7pm. Those found outside their homes are beaten-up," Biti said. "We are in a de facto state of emergency," he added.

    Pressure is mounting on President Robert Mugabe who is presiding over a deepening economic crisis that has seen inflation zooming beyond 1 700 percent amid deepening poverty and unemployment.

    The MDC has vowed to mobilise Zimbabweans to confront Mugabe on the streets to force the veteran president to step down.

    Mugabe has however reacted violently to the opposition challenge with his state agents brutally torturing Tsvangirai and several opposition leaders while in police custody last week.

    Political analysts say Mugabe will likely not give up power without a fight resorting to heavy-handed tactics to hang on to power.

    Gabriel Chaibva, the spokesperson of the Arthur Mutambara-led MDC, said his party had been inundated with reports from their supporters of police beating up people on the streets at night, especially in Kambuzuma suburb.

    "We have received numerous reports of shops and bars being closed before their closing time. We have noticed that if the police find people in groups of more than five, they disperse the people," said Chaibva. "There is an undeclared state of emergency," he added.

    Matthew Chirwa, a resident of Mufakose suburb in Harare, told ZimOnline yesterday that the police were randomly beating up people whom they found outside their homes after 7pm.

    "Police are out in full force in the streets. Yesterday they stormed a local council beer hall just after 6pm brandishing guns and baton sticks. They ordered everyone out and ordered that the bar be closed," said Chirwa.

    Masimba Zhou, from Kuwadzana concurred. "Shops close at 6pm. People no longer move freely after 6pm because the police are beating us up," said Zhou.

    The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) said it had received similar reports of police harassment in Harare’s working class suburbs.

    "Residents are no longer free to move around in their neighbourhood. Wherever they go the police are either searching them or assaulting them for no apparent reason," said Shumba.

    "We have received such reports from Glen View, Budiriro, Kambuzuma, Mabvuku and Glen Norah. People are being asked to stay in doors," he said.

    Contacted for comment, police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena denied that the government had imposed a state of emergency in Harare

    "There is nothing like a curfew or whatever you are trying to intimate. Police are going about with their duties of protecting lives and property. As such there has been a marked decrease in incidents of violence in the townships," said Bvudzijena. – ZimOnline

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