Harare turns into war zone

HARARE - Harare was turned into a war zone yesterday as police fought running battles with angry MDC youths who had gathered in the capital to present a petition to Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo over what they said was growing police brutality.

The mayhem left dozens of people injured and property worth tens of thousands of dollars destroyed — including the torching of cars belonging to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation Holdings (ZBC) and the Zimbabwe Republic Police in downtown Harare.

This forced panicking security chiefs to deploy aerial surveillance in the form of two helicopters and three military aircraft, to track the rioters, as the violence threatened to overwhelm authorities.

As a result, most shops around the Market Square area were forced to shut their doors,  while a supermarket in which Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko has interests, Choppies, was reported to have been looted.

Yesterday’s clashes came as Harare holds its breath over a mammoth demonstration by 18 political parties scheduled for tomorrow, who are pressing the government to disband the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) secretariat, which they claim is packed with people sympathetic to President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF.

The orgy of violence also came as the internationally-respected Group of Elders, who include former American president Jimmy Carter and ex-UN secretary-general Koffi Annan, issued an unusually frank call to Sadc to intervene in the worsening Zimbabwean political crisis.

Yesterday’s trouble started after the MDC youths, who have launched a campaign dubbed #MyZimbabwe, marched to the Home Affairs ministry, prompting police to try and stop them.

But the restive youths overpowered the assembled officers and proceeded with their march to the ministry, where they were once again confronted by more truckloads of heavily-armed riot police who fired teargas indiscriminately, affecting business at the ministries of Health, State Security, Home Affairs and Transport.

The youths were further pegged back by water cannons, which saw the determined demonstrators retreating into the capital’s central business district where they re-grouped along First Street.

It is here, where all hell broke loose, as they gathered an assortment of weapons, including stones, and started fighting back tenaciously against the police — triggering more than an hour of violent clashes which later spread to downtown Market Square.

“#My Zimbabwe is an opportunity for any Zimbabwean, regardless of political affiliation, to come and make their voice count to tell those who stay in fancy hotels that we are tired. Let us fight for the full realisation of the aspirations for which the liberation struggle was waged,’’ said MDC youth chairperson Happymore Chidziva.

“We reject the false narrative that Zimbabwe is one person and one family. Our strength rests in the diversity of our nation and plurality of our voices. We need to liberate our country from vampires who are stealing our generational mandate to freely sow our dream of a vibrant and prosperous Zimbabwe.

“Mugabe can have the soldiers and police but we have three things he doesn’t have — the people, time and history. It’s time for Mugabe and his regime to stand aside now. We can’t trust them with our future.

“At 92, he is not old but ancient and a man whom we see sleeping on TV, sleeping while standing, cannot be fit to continue ruling over this once great nation. 2018 is far away and elections are not the only way of removing a democratically-elected government or president from power in a democracy.

“Peaceful protests are a legal means of removing a government from power, whether they were elected by Nikuv or dead voters.

“#My Zimbabwe is a vehicle to achieve this very important objective and milestone in our country,” a charged Chidziva added.

Yesterday’s deadly clashes also followed hard on the heels of last week’s violent and brutal crackdown on protesters who had gathered in the capital to stage a demonstration against the imminent introduction of bond notes.

Mugabe and Zanu PF, in power since 1980, are facing their biggest challenge to their long rule, which is blamed for destroying the country’s once vibrant economy.

Last month, riots also broke out in the border town of Beitbridge when angry traders protested against the government’s ill-advised decision to ban the importation of basic consumer goods.

More than 70 people were arrested in the aftermath of those riots which destroyed property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, including the burning of a warehouse belonging to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra).

The riots later spread to Harare where police once again used force to break a demonstration called by commuter omnibus drivers and touts to protest over too many police roadblocks on the roads which they claimed had become extortionate. Analysts told the Daily News yesterday that Mugabe and Zanu PF were running out of time to avoid a total implosion of the country.

“Mugabe’s original plan was to cow opposition into submission through harvesting fear inculcated over the years. He would have preferred a more sophisticated and subtle authoritarian repression.

“However, he has been caught unawares by the new wave of demonstrations and is stuck,” scholar Phillan Zamchiya told the Daily News.

“To slaughter civilians draws international rebuke. Already the Elders have written to Sadc to put Zimbabwe on the radar ... So what does he do? To be or not to be is the greatest question of the day. He would rather face condemnation than watch his power being eroded,” Zamchiya added.

Human Rights Watch senior researcher for southern Africa, Dewa Mavhinga, said the economic and political problems confronting the government were so huge that violence would not rescue the country’s rulers.

“No amount of violence or police brutality can make people stop calling for their urgent resolution. The question of succession to 92-year-old Mugabe will not suddenly go away on account of police brutality. In fact, continued brutality will only intensify the international spotlight ..

“In this endgame, the current standoff between Mugabe and the people can only be resolved in favour of justice and good governance. The use of violence and naked State propaganda is archaic and a thoroughly discredited method that will not win the hearts and minds of Zimbabweans who have no food on their tables and are saying enough is enough,” Mavhinga told the Daily News.

Political analyst McDonald Lewanika said the rise in the wave of protests against Zanu PF was significant and demonstrated to the world that Mugabe’s government had failed.

“These processes de-legitimise the regime and are important for the opposition’s fight against Mugabe. At this point, it is becoming more and more evident that the Mugabe regime has lost the consent to govern from a significant proportion of the population.

“As such, coercion remains their last tool of holding on to power, which is always the case where regimes that have lost legitimacy are concerned. However, it is also clear that the use of the heavy-handed methods comes with serious reputational costs for the regime, as violence attracts attention and censure internationally, and also eats away legitimacy in the eyes of international peers.

“A rational regime would be expected to learn from the past and avoid doing a March 11, 2007 again. But Zanu PF has shown that it is not a rational regime.

“Their power, in their eyes, comes not from rational legal legitimating sources but from their claim to have fought for and birthed the nation ... if they feel sufficiently threatened, they will stop at nothing to crush dissent,” Lewanika added.

In their letter to Sadc, ahead of next week’s regional summit of Heads of State in Swaziland, and as the country teeters on the brink of total implosion, the Elders asked the bloc to intervene in the deteriorating Zimbabwean situation.

“The elders call on the heads of State of Sadc to consider how they can support a successful and inclusive transition in Zimbabwe that will return stability and growth to the country,” they said.

Meanwhile, 18 political parties will tomorrow hold a massive demonstration to press for electoral reforms which include disbanding and reconstituting the Zec secretariat.

Zec has been accused of manipulating elections in favour of Zanu PF. Its critics continuously refer to the hotly-disputed elections of 2002, 2005 and 2008 in which the supporters of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai contend that he won those elections hands down.

Of particular concern, was how Zec conducted the March 29, 2008 presidential elections whose results were delayed suspiciously for six weeks — leading many to say that there was ballot manipulation.

Comments (10)

Is it really necessary to lie ?? The Airforce Migs where rehearsing for the Agricltural show and only spend a fraction of a second over Harare city, incidentally the verify code below is FIB

Tengenenge - 25 August 2016

SADC needs to look at these socio-economic challenges from an wholistically African perspective. Are SADC member states leaders ministers of former US presidents? Why should Koffi Annan be a lapdog of imperialists?

ADF - 25 August 2016

iwe unorambira mauto sei iye chivenga uyu wekuroora mwana mudiki uyu akataura ega pa tv kuti maut haaite fold hands vanhu vachituka hurumende. ngavapatsanure tione helicopter dzerehearsals ne dzekusa folder maoko

joricho - 25 August 2016

Zimbabweans must not expect other states to fight their cause for them. Simply expect nothing from SADC and do your own fight from start to finish. And this ADF imperialist hogwash is depressing. Shows intellectual bankruptcy.

Clear - 25 August 2016

Forget about SADC, in fact, I Zimbabwe should bow out of SADC b4 mugabe spends the last of our few cents going to useless SADC summits. Fighting with the Police will put Zim on the radar and necessary intervention will be provided but certainly not from SADC or Africa. If AU kept silent while thousands of Tutsis were being killed do you think they can say anything about suffering Zimbos

Ziggy Zigawo - 25 August 2016

AU and SADC are useless.They are so afraid of Mugabe such that they will not even say a word at any of their summits. We are on our own.As for Tengenenge and ADF, whether you like it or not,Mugabe is soon going to buckle under pressure if indeed he is mortal .

chimuti - 26 August 2016

Sadc ndi Mugabe.Its wasting time going to those evil people who eat&drink with Mugabe.Zimbabwean people must fight there own Battle. Sadc is just a group of thieves&crooks who support each ather no matter the situation

Matsotsi - 26 August 2016

Massage to Police: These demonstrators are fighting to right your Zimbabwe, their Zimbabwe, our Zimbabwe, when it prospers, we all prosper, including you the police. Massage to the secretive State security Agents: What you do today including killing another human being on instruction will follow you for the rest of your life(including ngozi) , do you really want to go through this as an individual. What of your family vaakuripa ngozi yezvawakaita. History has taught us that it doesn't matter how long back the bad did was done, it's gonna catch up with you(remember the Holocaust). Do you really want to be part of that history. Do not kill or maim our people as they fight for their country, our country. Think about it. My beloved Country cries.

Den - 26 August 2016

the end is near.

gift - 31 August 2016


mboro - 31 August 2016

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.