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Pressure rising in Zimbabwe

Police advert banning public meetings in Harare Central, Zimbabwe

Kubatana are publicising a number of adverts appearing in the Harare press banning the holding of public demonstrations/rallies within Harare. This one, banning public meetings in Harare Central, cites the following as justification:

On 16th February 2007, youths organized by the Broad Alliance comprising the Movement for Democratic Change, National Constitutional Assembly, Women of Zimbabwe Arise, and others went on a rampage in the central business district attacking police officers and destroying property. Five police pofficers were severaly assaulted sustaining serious injuries. Herald offices and the police base at the corner of First Street and George Silundika Avenue were stoned resulting in the destruction of windowpanes at the two premises.

That's not how SW Radio Africa tell the story of the 16th February. According to them

Harare witnessed a spate of spontaneous demonstrations by supporters of the Tsvangirai MDC, members of the Zimbabwe National Students Union and activists from the National Constitutional Assembly. In an unprecedented move the protestors defended themselves against the brutal police and ZANU PF youths. It’s reported a police officer was injured during the clashes.

[...]

This is the second time this week that angry protestors have retaliated against police brutality. On Tuesday the pressure group Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) staged mass protests in Harare and Bulawayo marking their 5 th Valentines Day and distributing the People’ Charter. WOZA coordinator Jenni Williams, who was with the protestors in Harare said they were confronted by riot police who fired teargas canisters at them but the activists threw the tear gas canisters back in defiance.

We published a blog on the 19th commenting on a weekend of violence and repression - please note, violence caused by the police.

The inclusion of WOZA as violent police bashing protestors made me laugh. As anyone who has followed the brave women of WOZA will know, overt violence is not very WOZA-like. For example, Kubatana have this wonderful typical image of the women of WOZA jumping for joy and handing out roses to the public on the 13th February. What would the police have us believe they did a few days later? Bash helmeted riot police over the head with flowers? Hug them till they hurt?

WOZA women jumping for joy

Things are clearly hotting up though. SW Radio Africa interviewed Raymond Majongwe of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, David Coltart of the Mutambara MDC, and lawyer Arnold Tsunga about the changing atmosphere in Zimbabwe. This is what David Coltart had to say in response to the question "what are your thoughts on the unfolding events in Zimbabwe and also what is the mood of the people":

[...] I liken this to a pot on the fire. You’ve got this pot on the fire with ZANU PF stoking the fire all the time through inflation, through corruption, through mismanagement, and instead of allowing the contents of the pot just to bubble and simmer they are actually putting a lid on, and the lid is through this oppressive Police action, through trying to suppress the legitimate rights of people and this has resulted in this massive build up of pressure and tension in the country and it is inevitable that this will explode. If the regime does not allow this pressure to be released through allowing people to vent their emotions and their feelings through legitimate peaceful demonstration, it is inevitable, unfortunately that this will unravel and spin out of control. So, I fear that this tension will increase and that if the Regime does not sit down and genuinely negotiate with civil society, with labour leaders, with all political parties, with the Churches to work a way out of this mess, that Zimbabwe could explode. (our emphasis added)

In addition to banning meetings, The Standard reported yesterday that an illegal curfew has been imposed on Harare's high density areas - a 'curfew' enforced by police brutality:

A snap survey by The Standard revealed that the police had imposed an illegal curfew in Harare’s political flashpoints.

There have been arbitrary beatings of people in Epworth, Highfield, Kambuzuma, Kuwadzana, Mufakose, Glen View and Glen Norah, under the cover of darkness.

One police victim, Ndaba Maphosa of Highfield, covered in bruises all over his body, said he was beaten up by the police on Wednesday around 11:00 PM while on his way home from Speedy Sport Bar in the Southerton area, where he had gone to watch a soccer match on television.

"They beat us up indiscriminately, accusing us of being MDC supporters. It was a terrible moment," Maphosa said.

Another victim, Warren Sibanda (36) of Kambuzuma Section 3 said he was severely assaulted by a group of police officers while on his way home from a nearby bar.

"It’s so unreasonable. It’s as if we are back in the colonial days when Ian Smith’s forces could do anything with impunity," he said.

Even night club owners are now complaining of plunging sales as a direct result of the police action.

Virginia Munyama of Fiyo Bar at Machipisa shopping centre said her sales had dropped significantly since the police action started. She said the police ordered them to close the sports bar around 8PM every day although their licence allows them to open until late.

Both the imposition of a curfew and the ban on political rallies and demonstrations are illegal under the Constitution, The Standard established yesterday.

The pressure is rising, and the powers that be are obviously feeling the heat.

[tags]Zimbabwe, police, repression, violence, WOZA, NCA, MDC, women, gender[/tags]

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