HARARE – Former vice president and opposition leader Joice Mujuru has called for fresh elections amid public anger and protests over the country’s deteriorating economic situation
Mrs. Mujuru told a news conference held at her Harare residence Tuesday that President Mugabe should dissolve government to pave way for fresh elections to contain the country’s economic crisis.
She said the government’s recent import ban on basic commodities that triggered massive protests in the border town of Beitbridge, was symptomatic of a government that has failed to provide answers to the plight of suffering Zimbabweans.
Amid rising anger among Zimbabweans and spontaneous protests that are being held in some parts of the country, Mrs. Mujuru called on the police and other law enforcement agents to exercise restraint, saying Zimbabwe’s constitution allows citizens to engage in peaceful demonstrations.
She said there was no need for any heavy-handedness on the part of the authorities as Zimbabweans are yearning for any answer to a myriad of problems that they are currently facing.
Mrs. Mujuru’s appeal for peaceful demonstrations comes at a time when some groups have called for a three-day mass stay-away that is expected to start Wednesday.
Meanwhile Robert Mugabe’s regime has ordered citizens to “go about their normal business” on Wednesday as tensions rose ahead of calls for a national shut-down in Zimbabwe.
Acting information minister Joseph Made told state ZBC radio’s evening news bulletin on Tuesday: “Government continues to make it clear that all our citizens, in particular our civil servants should continue to go about their normal business across the country.”
Calls for a shut-down have been growing on the back of protests in Harare on Monday and Beitbridge on Friday. There have been threats on social media against schools and businesses that refuse to close their doors.
In one message widely circulated on Whatsapp, threats were made against well-known private schools in Harare as well as against Pick n Pay, which has stores in the capital and other cities. “Close your businesses tomorrow. This is for the safety of your staff and buildings. Stay away tomorrow and keep the peace please,” read the message, which could not be verified.
“Teachers who choose to put their lives at risk… rethink what your heads are requesting of you.”
But minister Made said: “What is of great concern to government is the falsehoods that are being peddled on social media.” He denied reports that police had already imposed a 19:00 curfew in parts of the capital.
Anger is growing in Zimbabwe on the back of cash shortages, the imminent introduction of “bond notes”, the police force’s demand for cash at roadblocks and what is widely seen as a ban on imports that will cut off an economic lifeline for many families. There is also anger over the beatings police dealt out to some protesters on Monday.
Said the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, an umbrella grouping of rights organisations: “The state security organs especially the police must forthwith cease to use violence on peaceful protesters… We are in full solidarity with the ordinary citizens.”
While stay-aways have been held several times since 2000, what is different about this one is that it has not been called by any one political party (though it does have the backing of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change).
In some shops late on Tuesday, shoppers were seen stocking up. Commented @kodzafox: “Zimbabweans outchea buying booze and meat like tomorrow’s a national holiday.”
Zanu PF ministers Joseph Made the acting Information Media acting minister, the acting Public service and labour minister Supa Mandiwanzira, the Police National Spokesperson Charity Charamba have jostled to announce and encourage people to go to work tomorrow as the information circulated on the social media that there will be a national lock down and no-one will go to work in protest against government failure.
Mandiwanzira said the teachers were reported to be on strike and if they were engaged in such industrial action they must know t6hat their actions were illegal and must go to work. He indicated that there has been not deadlock between the government and the teachers representatives and there was no reason why they should go on strike as the government would pay them on July 7.
Made said what ever protests that were being planned tomorrow were works of some rogue elements who want to destabilise the nation and people must not heed their calls but must go with their normal business tomorrow.
Charamba threatened that any elements who are found committing violence of instigating violence and protests will be dealt with as the police were out in full force.
Many police officers who were on leave were yesterday called on duty in anticipation of the outbreak of violence and in a disturbing incident a police office who had registered to do a block released programme at NUST had to abandon the programme after he was called for duty.