Showdown looms between Zimbabwe police and economic crisis protesters

A showdown is looming in Zimbabwe on Thursday as labour unions have vowed to go ahead with planned protests against the country’s continued economic crisis. This is despite a police ban on account of fears of a fresh cholera outbreak.

Zimbabwe’s largest trade union, the Zimbabwe Congress Trade Union (ZCTU) called for national protests on Thursday as the country’s economic crisis worsened, AFP reported.

The ZCTU said the strike was triggered by sharp price hikes, a new tax on electronic transactions and daily shortages ranging from fuel to drugs.

“We are going to approach the courts. We do not think the police have a legal basis [for any ban],” ZCTU president Peter Mutasa said on Tuesday.

But according to NewsDay, the country’s home affairs minister Cain Mathema warned that police would be out in full force to thwart any attempts by the ZCTU to demonstrate.

Mathema reportedly said that while Zimbabweans had a democratic right to demonstrate, that right must be exercised within the limits of the law. 

“We hear that there are some who want to demonstrate against what they say are an untenable economic situation in the country. Let me say that our President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) is a peace-loving person. We are a law-abiding government and so is our President.

“If people go against the law and go to demonstrate, they must know that our law will deal with them harshly. We don’t want law breakers. We don’t want people who break our peace,” Mathema was quoted as saying.

Zimbabwe’s moribund economy has hit new lows in recent days with shops struggling to stock shelves, prices of goods such as cooking oil rising rapidly due to panic buying and long queues outside petrol stations.

A 2c tax for every dollar of electronic payments was introduced last week as President Emmerson Mnangagwa sought  to revive the debt-ridden economy.

The local “bond note” currency, which in theory has the same value as the US dollar, has been in freefall in recent weeks, raising fears of a return to the hyper-inflation that wrecked national finances in 2009.

“It’s either we do nothing but die in our homes because pharmacies are closing and hospitals have no drugs (or we) speak up and stand up for our rights,” ZCTU president Peter Mutasa said this week.

Zimbabwe has announced job cuts for civil servants as part of reforms to cut expenditure.

“We must all be realistic… Whatever some may claim, there are no silver bullets or quick fixes,” Mnangagwa said on Monday calling for people not to panic.

Public gatherings were banned in Harare last month to tackle the cholera outbreak that has claimed at least 49 lives. Authorities have said the disease was now under control.

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