DEPUTY CHIEF WRITER
©️ HARARE was once again hit by chaotic scenes yesterday, after security forces stopped tens of thousands of people from entering the central business district (CBD) — as the country held its day of national prayer, the Daily News reports.
Not for the first time, the heightened security was curiously restricted to the capital city — amid swirling speculation that authorities were on high alert for mass protests by the opposition.
This comes as political tensions are rising worryingly in the country, amid an ever worsening economic climate.
But national police spokesperson Paul Nyathi told the Daily News yesterday that there was nothing unusual about the high security presence in Harare, which he maintained was in line with the current national lockdown regulations.
“As you know, the country is still under national lockdown, so the police will be ensuring that people continue to comply with the regulations,” he said.
Expanding on the issue further, Nyathi said security deployments depended on each day’s assessments by law enforcement agents.
“In some days there will be an increase in vehicular and pedestrian volumes, as some people simply want to get into the CBD for business that can be carried out somewhere else.
“We are saying those without exemptions should not carry out their business in the CBD,” he said.
As a result, thousands of people yesterday endured frustrating hours in long, snaking queues as police and soldiers searched cars and buses coming into the CBD.
Apart from searching vehicles, the security forces also turned away many people, including those allowed by the law to be at work.
In contrast, in Bulawayo and other towns, Daily News crews there said it was business as usual. Only a few roads leading into city centres in these urban areas had police check points.
Zimbabwe is currently under a relaxed, but indefinite lockdown — which authorities hope helps to combat the spread of coronavirus in the country.
Meanwhile, political analysts said yesterday the stepped up security betrays the government’s fears of civil unrest, due to the worsening economic rot.
“I think it’s fear that people may be coming into the city to express solidarity with the abducted and tortured MDC trio, who were appearing before the courts for a bail hearing.
“Remember the events of the last few weeks have galvanised opposition supporters and also pushed others to the brink.
“So, I think this is a pre-emptive approach by the security services to stop any likelihood of demonstrations in the CBD.
“It’s unfortunate that lockdowns are being used to make it difficult for the informal sector to eke out a living at a time when hunger and starvation are threatening to kill more people than Covid-19,” political analyst Admire Mare said.
Another political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, echoed the same sentiments, saying yesterday’s heavy security presence in Harare was part of authorities’ plan to stop protests.
“The situation is pregnant with frustration, anger, hunger and restiveness among the people.
“It’s ironic … to declare a national day of prayer and then bar people from going to places of worship of their choice in town.
“It’s all politics, nothing religious. It has nothing to do with prayer and fasting,” Saungweme told the Daily News.
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