Govt fears shutdown 2

JITTERY authorities are bracing for another mega protest by angry labour unions and the opposition — who fear that authorities are planning to tighten the country’s repressive laws to stop a repeat of last month’s violent mass actions which left at least 12 people dead and hundreds others seriously wounded.

This comes as President Emmerson Mnangagwa has given the green light to the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) to spearhead talks aimed at resolving the country’s deepening political and economic crises. 

The NPRC has already invited the opposition, Zanu PF, the church and other key stakeholders to submit their proposals which will guide the much-awaited national dialogue.

This comes after Zimbabwe was plunged into a ginormous crisis two weeks ago, when angry protesters clashed with security forces during a stay-away which was organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, in protest against sharp fuel price hikes which had been announced by Mnangagwa.

But despite the withering local and international criticism that has been directed at the government regarding the ongoing crackdown against dissenting voices by the country’s military, authorities have remained defiant —and are girding themselves for an even bigger confrontation with their critics, documents in the possession of the Daily News show.

“Police deployments remain on the ground in order to reassure the citizens of their security. This is particularly so, given the fact that the MDC and other local merchants of regime change are planning to carry out further protests under the so-called National Shutdown II.

“It is pertinent to note that efforts are underway to align Posa with the 2013 Constitution. In addition, government is also alive to the constitutional rights of the citizenry, including the right to protest, as enshrined under section 59 of the Constitution.

“The above notwithstanding, the rights can be constitutionally derogated from a citizen on the basis of Article 86 of the Constitution which provides for limitations on rights and freedom for the public good,” the government says in the documents.

A fortnight ago, police and soldiers were engaged in running battles with protesters who flooded the streets of Harare, Bulawayo and other towns — to demonstrate against the steep fuel price hikes which were announced by the president ahead of his tour of Eastern Europe.

Property worth millions of dollars was also destroyed and looted in the mayhem which ensued, after thousands of workers heeded the ZCTU’s three-day stay-away call.

At the same time, security forces unleashed a brutal crackdown against the protesters, the opposition and civil society leaders — in a move which received wide condemnation in the country and around the world.

At least 12 people died, while 78 others were treated for serious gunshot wounds, according to rights groups and medical doctors.

Rights groups also continue to report human rights abuses by security forces — including galling allegations that soldiers had raped women and girls during their much-condemned crackdown against innocent civilians.

This prompted Mnangagwa to announce that he would probe the accusations, vowing that heads would roll if his government established that the abuses had indeed taken place.

The under-pressure 76-year-old Zanu PF leader made the announcement soon after he returned to the country, after cancelling his scheduled trip to Switzerland where he was due to attend this year’s meeting of the World Economic Forum (Wef).

“One week ago, I announced measures to stabilise our nation’s crucial fuel supply. I was aware that these measures may not be popular, and this was not a decision we took lightly. But it was the right thing to do.

“What followed was regrettable and tragic. Everyone has the right to protest, but this was not a peaceful protest.

“Wanton violence and cynical destruction; looting police stations, stealing guns and uniforms; incitement and threats of violence. This is not the Zimbabwean way,” Mnangagwa said on social media.

“Likewise, violence or misconduct by our security forces is unacceptable and a betrayal of the new Zimbabwe. Chaos and insubordination will not be tolerated. Misconduct will be investigated. If required, heads will roll.

“I invite leaders of all political parties as well as religious and civil leaders to set aside our differences and come together.

“What unites us is stronger than what could ever divide us. Let’s begin a national dialogue. Let’s put the economy first. Let’s put the people first,” Mnangagwa added.

In the government brief which is in the possession of the Daily News, authorities say while they regret the loss of life last month, the intervention of the security forces had been necessary to deal “decisively with the extreme provocation” by protesters.

“The security forces’ response was proportional to the threat posed. Unfortunately, some lives were lost, including that of a police officer, who was stoned to death.

“The provocation was extreme, and the officers had a constitutional duty to prevent further loss of lives, including their own. However, some misguided elements within the system and security forces committed excesses and the law is taking its course.

“Although the protests were ostensibly in response to the increase in the price of fuel and the general socio-economic challenges besetting the country, the so-called ‘National Shutdown’ was, in essence, an attempt by hostile elements to subvert the State by rendering the country ungovernable.

“The timing of the ‘National Shutdown’ is instructive. The MDC deliberately chose to launch its violent protests at a time ... Mnangagwa was undertaking his re-engagement initiative to Euroasia and the World Economic Forum Davos, Switzerland.

“The violent protests were also aimed at coercing Zanu PF and government to accommodate the political opposition, particularly the MDC Alliance, through the consummation of a Government of National Unity.

“As the protests became violent, government activated all State security apparatus in order to restore law and order, protect life and property. Swift response by the security forces resulted in the arrest of hundreds of protesters and their ring leaders,” the authorities said further in their paper.

Mnangagwa, who was feted like a king when he replaced deposed autocratic ruler Robert Mugabe in November 2017, initially lifted the mood of crisis-weary Zimbabweans who were hopeful at the time that he would turn around the country’s economic fortunes.

However, the post-July 30 election shootings — which left at least six civilians dead when the military used live ammunition to quell an ugly demonstration in Harare’s central business district (CBD) on August 1 — and the latest round of deaths, as well as the vicious clampdown of dissenting voices — are seen as having dented his image significantly, in addition to harming his chances of getting financial support from Western countries.

Meanwhile, and following criticism of his government’s handling of the recent protests, Mnangagwa has put in motion plans to have national dialogue in a bid to end the country’s myriad problems.

Last week, the NPRC held meetings with stakeholders as part of the process to begin national talks.

. . . as Zim socio-political tensions continue to simmer

    Comments (11)

    chakachaya murambwi marambwa nechigaro!!!!

    mukovhe watshilidzi - 5 February 2019

    The is what very important very very important issue at the right time before election waiti ukapa advice waibva wanzi ne MDC URI Wezanu pf ....saka ndati is the right time.Apa i wish if we could include all interested people and such invitations must be put on the newspapers or radios.Iam interested to this discussion as an individual and should be extended to all think tanks as Iam also one of the think tanks.This situation we are in today I saw it coming and people refuse to be a advised. now here we are.....

    dofo - 5 February 2019

    Government can never be jittery. It will still beat up mischief makers. Why are you inciting people to feel that they can confront an armed government? This is very silly reporting.

    Mhofu Chaiyo - 5 February 2019

    This is not even a news report; it's an opinion piece by an opposition newspaper. Why news reporters in a country as poor as Zim clamour for shutdowns, rioting and wanton destruction of property is beyond me.

    Buns Tinobvinex - 5 February 2019

    The longer armed soldiers and police remain patrolling the streets the more you are chasing away would be foreign investor and worse is the cash crisis and doomed is the economy.

    Eddy - 5 February 2019

    No investor comes to a country where his property will be looted or set on fire by marauding mobs. The idea that police on streets chase away investors in an illogical lie. Investors love protection of their property and self. Why does the MDC fear the enforcement of law and order? THANK YOU ZNA and ZRP for peace!

    Buns Tinobvinex - 6 February 2019

    The voice of the people is the voice of God and people have said and demonstrated that they are hungry and incapacitated, a listening Government will be very worried full of fear of Shut Down 11. In the view of the progressive world the presence of military man in the streets does not mean peace but it means FORCED SILENCE, only humanitarian investment will be attracted by such economic investment goes elsewhere government leaders should shitting bricks and spending sleepless nights over that fact. And that teachers strike is now full-blown....doom!

    Sinyo - 6 February 2019

    What contributed to this shut down was fear. The protesters were violent such that some had to hide in their homes. I don't think shutdown 2 will be violent if ever and unlikely attract people to stay away. Yes people are angry but many are realising its not the way to solve issues. At the end of the day, we need to attract FDI, failure of which does not affect ED but us all. So, environment that attracts FDI is everyone's responsibility to make sure its there.

    Mu - 6 February 2019

    Protests (generally) by their very nature are unpredictable. The cause usually gets high jacked by unruly elements with chaos and anarchy proceeding. In the eyes of the west (and western media) it will be "There they go again THOSE people.....". Investors do not care about MDC or Zanu PF all they want assuarance is that their investments are protected and they can repatriate the profit. Shutdowns (why can we not be original?) - cloning off US / EU etc ideas will only worsen the Zimbabwean situation. Why can we not as Zimbabweans come together and resolve our challenges internally? External assistance comes with hidden agendas and conditions. Watch what is happening in Venezuela where the ordinary people become pawns in a highly stacked political game

    Daniel 5 - 6 February 2019

    After the killings the dragnet arrests and raping of women government has sent its message loud and clear - shut down number two will happen but more lives will be lost. Our security sector services are now full-blown party militias all urbanites are not human beings but architects of regime change who should be crashed by any means including heinuos diabolic acts. A telltale sign that the government has failed its core mandate ..wellness of citizenry.

    Widzo - 6 February 2019

    HEY MAMDC SO CHII CHAIZVO INJERE SHOMA HERE KUTOPENGA CHAIKO HERE I AM FAILING TO FIND THE CORRECT PLACE TO PUT YOU. SURELY WHERE IN THIS WORLD WILL A GOVT WANT TO MAINTAIN AN ARMY OR POLICE WHICH IS AGAINST IT? EVEN TRUMP OR THERESA CAN NOT ALLOW THAT TO HAPPEN. EVEN CHANYISWA EVEN HE HAPPEN TO BE THE RULER HE CAN NEVER ALLOW SUCH A SCENARIO. SO WHY DO YOU THINK THE ZIMBABWE GOVT SHOULD ACCEPT IT? HAVING SECURITY ORGANISATIONS THAT ARE AGAINST THE GOVT IS AS GOOD AS STAYING WITH WIFE ENGAGED BY ANOTHER MAN. DO YOU THINK THAT WOMAN WILL GIVE THE TRUE LOVE YOU EXPECT? DONT SHOW YOUR STUPIDTINESS TO THE WORLD WIDZO. SECURITY SECTORS ARE THERE TO DEFEND THE POLICIES OF THE SERVING GOVERNMENT NOT THE OPPOSITION NEVER. THIS IS THE TRUTH WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT.

    shunguhadziurayi - 13 February 2019

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