Zimbabwe police ban Harare protests, as opponents of Mugabe vow to stage mass rallies
Zimbabwean police have announced a fresh ban on protests in the capital Harare, state media said, in another attempt to end demonstrations against veteran ruler President Robert Mugabe.
The order came on Tuesday, hours after a coalition of opposition parties said they would stage mass rallies across the country on Saturday to push for reform before elections due in 2018.
Anti-government campaigners vowed to defy the order and also appeal to the courts.
“These are the last kicks of a dying regime and we expected no better from them,” said Douglas Mwozora, spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition party.
“They have no respect for the law but we are not going to surrender our constitutional right. We are going back to the courts to challenge this illegal ban.”
An earlier protest ban in Harare was overturned by the courts last week, despite Mugabe vowing a crackdown on dissent and blasting judges for “reckless” rulings allowing previous rallies.
In a notice in the state-run Herald newspaper, Harare police chief Newbert Saunyama said a ban would be imposed on the “holding of public demonstrations” for one month starting on Friday.
Hardlife Mudzingwa, spokesman for the pressure group Tajamuka (We are agitated), said: “We will not heed this unconstitutional declaration by the police.”
Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party won the last general elections in 2013 which were marred by electoral fraud.
Opposition to Mugabe’s 36-year reign has grown in recent months with a surge of public demonstrations, triggered by an economic crisis that has left banks short of cash and the government struggling to pay its workers.
Two weeks ago, police detained scores of people including activists and bystanders following violent demonstrations in the capital.
Mugabe, 92, has often used brutal force to silence his opponents, and at the weekend he warned the protestors they were “playing a dangerous game”.
“Let the opposition parties and all those angling for chaos, mayhem and violent demonstrations be warned that our patience has run out,” Mugabe said in an address to his party’s central committee.
“They are planning to terrorise the rural areas in the mistaken belief that they can intimidate and harass our supporters. Let them be warned. They cannot win that war.”
Last week, the government announced plans to slash 25,000 jobs after it revealed that nearly 97 per cent of its revenue goes to paying public workers’ salaries.
Soldiers and civil servants have regularly been paid late this year, heightening pressure on Mugabe, who came to power in 1980 and has vowed to stand for re-election in 2018.
A one-day strike in July, called by trade unions and Christian pastor Evan Mawarire, shut down offices, schools and some government departments.