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call answered by police threats
April 02, 2007
HARARE - Scores
of residents in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, were beaten up by uniformed
members of the Zimbabwe National Army and forced to go to work on
Tuesday, the start of a two-day stayaway called by the Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) in protest against deteriorating
An IRIN correspondent
witnessed soldiers beating residents in Epworth, a poor working-class
suburb east of Harare. Some residents were seen trying to convince
the uniformed men that they could not go to work because they were
not formally employed.
assistant commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena said members of the elite
National Reaction Force had been deployed across the country "to
ensure people can report to work, but [they have to do it] in [a]
peace[ful manner]. We will investigate these claims".
Police were on
high alert on the first day of the stayaway. Truckloads of armed
police and soldiers patrolled city and township streets. In a further
display of force, military helicopters flew low over the city.
battling with the world's highest annual inflation rate, which has
reached more than 1,700 percent, an unemployment rate of 80 percent
and food shortages.
Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions,
Philip Alston, called on the Zimbabwe government to stop the use
of lethal force against unarmed political activists amid the growing
A statement by
the Special Rapporteur on Monday said "particularly troubling" were
the shooting dead of three protestors, and the deaths "of eight
to 10 persons at Harare hospitals from injuries consistent with
being beaten by state security agents with blunt instruments". The
police have warned they would use live ammunition to stop violent
is, in effect, instructing its forces to shoot innocent people,
in complete disregard for the right to life. In particular, such
an approach reflects no attempt to balance the rights to political
participation, and to freedom of expression and association, with
any legitimate notion of the need to maintain public order," Alston
He said members
of the security forces inflicting harm on civilians could be tried
later for their crimes. "Under international law, widespread or
systematic attacks against the civilian population are crimes against
humanity. Members of the police and military who comply with orders
to gun down demonstrators will eventually be held to account."
IRIN that four people in the Dzivarasekwa township in Harare were
arrested when they stoned minibus-taxis ferrying people to work.
"The arrests were
made when the suspects tried to stop the transport operators from
pursuing their lawful business, which is that of transporting residents.
The roads in the high-density suburbs of Budiriro, Glen View and
Chitungwiza [in Harare] were barricaded with boulders to prevent
vehicles from moving around, but police details removed the boulders.
In one incident, a government-owned Zimbabwe United Passenger Company
(ZUPCO) bus was stoned in Chitungwiza but there were no serious
claimed that armed soldiers and police patrolled their neighbourhoods
and indiscriminately beat up residents. All pubs were shut down
and residents were told to have an early night in order to report
for work on time.
An IRIN correspondent
travelled around the Central Business District where some banks
were operating with a skeleton staff but other organisations did
not open for business.
officer, Last Tarabuka, told IRIN that the stayaway call had been
heeded by workers and some employers. "In the industrial areas,
a lot of firms did not open because the workers did not turn up."
Some workers told
IRIN that they would only return for work after the Easter holidays.
The official newspaper,
The Herald, reported that the Minister of Information and Publicity,
Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, had called on workers to ignore ZCTU's stayaway
call. Ndlovu reportedly said it was irrational for ZCTU to call
for a strike when the government was doing all it could to address
the current economic challenges facing the country.
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