Deadly riots rock Harare

HARARE - As the spirit of resistance against Zimbabwe’s deepening rot continues to sweep through the country, angry commuter omnibus crews, agitating against too many police roadblocks on the roads, ran riot in Harare yesterday.

The riots came as civil servants — including teachers, nurses and doctors — start a crippling strike today — over the continued delay by the government to pay them their June salaries.

Yesterday’s violent protests saw the commuter omnibus operators, their drivers and conductors engaging in running battles with police, and barricading many arterial roads leading to the tense capital’s central business district using stones and tree branches.

The protesters threw stones and an assortment of other deadly missiles at the stretched cops, forcing some of them to flee, and turning Harare’s eastern high density suburbs into a war zone.

Describing the situation as “tense”, police spokesperson Charity Charamba told the Daily News that authorities had been forced to deploy law enforcement agents across the entire capital city to quell the anarchy.

“Police officers have been heavily deployed to deal with any public disorder situation. Lawlessness of any nature whatsoever and those who are bent on causing mayhem by taking the law into their hands will not be condoned,” she said.

Charamba also warned that all those people who were allegedly inciting others and engaging in violence would be dealt with “severely”.

People protest in Epworth on Monday. 

“As police, we have information and intelligence on the identities of some criminal elements that are behind the social unrest. We have put our monitoring teams in place and all perpetrators of violence will be arrested,” she said.

Charamba also revealed that security roadblocks would be in full force from today onwards to deal with the situation, adding that police had arrested more than 30 people who were accused of being involved in the protests in Ruwa and Mabvuku.

“We need to put these roadblocks in place as you can see the situation is quite tense. It is a means of monitoring what is going on … whatever is going on is under the scrutiny of the police and other security elements,” she said.

Using teargas and water cannons, police officers struggled to quell the chaotic scenes that began as early as three in the morning and intensified as the majority of people were teeming into town later in the day.

This left tens of thousands of people stranded along the Harare-Mutare Highway in particular, as the rioters blocked roads and forced the few commuter omnibuses which were continuing to ferry travellers to drop off their passengers.

In the end, many had to walk long distances to work, while others were forced to bunk work altogether. Even on the quieter west side of the capital, many people who were travelling to Bulawayo were also left stranded as fears of a city-wide strike grew.

“We were dropped off along the road, despite having paid the full fare to Harare, and they even refused to reimburse us our money.

“Just after we passed Ruwa shops, we saw a group of young men holding stones. They jumped onto the road and forced the driver to stop and asked us to disembark from the car,” a frustrated man, who was on his way to Bulawayo from Marondera told the Daily News.

Near Mabvuku, many of the young men involved in the protest pretended to be playing soccer at a nearby ground to hoodwink the police. However, they would push big boulders onto the road blocking the way, each time police officers would move to another spot to quell new insurgences.

In Epworth, hundreds of police officers also engaged in running battles with rioters there, with all business activities at a standstill as the kombi crews chanted “hondo, hondo” (war, war).

People protest in Ruwa on Monday.

A number of trucks delivering bread were also looted in the area, while some isolated police officers were almost left for dead, before being eventually saved by the timely intervention of their colleagues who arrived on the scene with dogs to salvage the situation.

In Ruwa, the Daily News also witnessed an incident in which one suspect who was being held by police officers was let go after angry youths began raining stones at the cops, forcing the law enforcement agents to flee for their lives.

Analysts say the rising protests manifest Zimbabweans’ growing frustrations with Zanu PF’s misrule, as well as worsening economic conditions on the ground.

On Friday last week, irate protestors paralysed operations at Beitbridge Border Post, burning a Zimra warehouse in the process after the government ill-advisedly imposed a ban on the importation of  a wide range of basic commodities.

Mugabe — the only leader that Zimbabweans have known since the country’s independence from Britain in April 1980 — stands accused of running down the economy and showing reluctance to deal with rampant executive corruption.

While yesterday’s riots were taking place in the eastern parts of the capital, a group of other protesters were staging their own demonstration in the city centre against embattled Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko’s continued stay at Rainbow Towers Hotel.

And social media was also awash with calls for people to boycott work altogether from today onwards, until Mugabe and Zanu PF were ousted from power.

“The riots are a sign of the times. The people are speaking and saying loudly that enough is enough. The biting poverty and economic precipice that Zimbabwe is on means people are no longer afraid.

“Millions have nothing to lose except the chains of political oppression that currently shackles them.

“The boiling anger confirms that 2018 is too far, change will come way sooner than that because the Zanu PF government does not seem to have the slightest clue about how to take the country out of the deep hole that they dropped the country into,” senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, Dewa Mavhinga, told the Daily News.

The MDC said last night that Mugabe’s government had failed the people who were now resorting to protests because they had lost all hope.

“Everything that can go wrong has since gone wrong. Things have fallen apart and the centre can no longer hold. These demonstrations are clearly symptomatic of a people who have been driven to the edge by a brutal and corrupt regime,” MDC spokesman Obert Gutu said.

Comments (4)

Kambe Charamba lama mapholisa akho, IN ALL HONESTY who needs to be incited to demonstrate in this chaotic economic state of affairs except that lina mapholisa yini who are fighting the suffering citizen to ensure they do not truthfully, justifiably and voluntarily express their grave concerns to their oppressors?

Vikiqiniso - 5 July 2016

The Chimurenga chickens are now well and truly coming home to roost.

RLI - 6 July 2016

The Chimurenga chickens are now well and truly coming home to roost.

RLI - 6 July 2016

Forward comrades :)

TruthSaid - 6 July 2016

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