Harare security beefed up again…as rising corona infections, political tensions rock Zim

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Tendai Kamhungira

DEPUTY CHIEF WRITER
kamhungirat@dailynews.co.zw

©️  AUTHORITIES appeared to have further beefed up security in Harare yesterday, with more police officers and soldiers visible around the capital — as Covid-19 infections and political tensions continue to rise in the country, the Daily News reports.

This comes after the government barred tens of thousands of people from entering Harare’s central business district (CBD) on Tuesday — creating massive chaos during the morning rush hour.

 

The heightened security in the capital — which has caught many people by surprise — does not appear to have been extended to other urban areas so far, despite authorities saying this is merely part of efforts to ensure compliance with the national coronavirus lockdown.
Analysts who spoke to the Daily News last night said apart from the efforts to contain the lethal virus, the added security deployments could also be a result of the rising political tension in the country.
To add grist to this line of thinking were reports that scores of people had held a flash demonstration in the capital’s high density suburbs of Highfield and Glen Norah on Tuesday night — which appeared to contribute to the fresh security deployments in residential areas and in the CBD.
Contacted by the Daily News last night, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) said it was investigating the incidents to establish what exactly had happened there.
“We are still investigating the issue. We want to establish if this was a demonstration or if it was a funeral. If it was a funeral, we also want to find out what happened,” police spokesperson Paul Nyathi said.
On its part, the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) referred all questions about its deployments to the Covid-19 national taskforce.
“Ask the Covid-19 taskforce. They know the level and how it is implemented,” ZNA deputy director of public relations, Major Alex Zuva, said.
Efforts by the Daily News to get a comment from the task force’s deputy chair, Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, did not yield results.
However, political analysts said the security services’ presence in the capital’s CBD and residential areas was as
much about politics as it was about corona lockdown regulations.
Respected University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, was among those who said the deployments were “a combination of the enhancement of the lockdown regulation and other issues”.
“The lockdown regulations are part of the reason … However, there is also a hidden reason beyond the official reason.
“There were some flash demos in Highfield and it looks like it is a plausible explanation to deploy more law enforcement agents.
“There is also fear not only of a repeat of the demonstrations which took place in Warren Park recently, but also what is happening in the United States at the moment,” Masunungure said.
This comes as United States citizens are currently demonstrating over the death of George Floyd in the hands of white police officers last week.
“Zanu PF through its many unofficial spokespersons have been vigorously condemning what is happening in the United States, as well as the response there by the government.
“The demonstrators here are probably saying if you are condemning that, let’s test you and see how you react. It was to see how the security agents would respond,” Masunungure added.
This comes as authorities in Harare are still smarting from accusations that they were involved in the alleged abduction of three MDC officials, after they staged a flash demonstration in Warren Park Harare recently.
The MDC officials — Harare West legislator Joanna Mamombe, youth assembly vice chair Cecilia Chimbiri and the party’s youth deputy organising secretary Netsai Marowa — went missing before they were found in Bindura, amid allegations that they were tortured by State agents.
Another political analyst Rashweat Mukundu also said the presence of the military and the police in the capital’s streets likely had little to do with the ongoing lockdown.
“There is a growing concern that the presence of the military on our streets has nothing to do with the lockdown, but maintaining the military State that Zimbabwe became from November 2017 after the coup that ousted the late former president Robert Mugabe.
“It serves political purposes that the military be deployed randomly, beating up people and doing essentially what is police service work.
“The people who are in charge at roadblocks are not the police, but the soldiers. If you reason with the police, they actually defer to the decisions of the military and it is the military moving around in our neighbourhoods chasing the people.
“To me, this is becoming more of a political way of controlling people and managing dissent than a Covid-19 response,” Mukundu said.
“A Covid-19 response must be led by those who are constitutionally allowed to do this, who are the police — and it must also be led on the basis of a humane engagement with communities, rather than the heavy handed approach that is being perpetrated on citizens,” he added.
On Tuesday, authorities barred tens of thousands of people from entering Harare’s CBD — creating chaos during the morning rush hour in the process.
That heightened security then — which also caught many people by surprise — was also curiously restricted to the capital city, despite the government saying it was part of efforts to ensure compliance with the national coronavirus lockdown.
Zimbabwe is currently under an extended lockdown which authorities hope will combat the spread of coronavirus in the country.
As part of fortifying the lockdown, the government has put in place several new regulations, which — among other things — criminalise public gatherings and the non-wearing of face masks in public.

 

 

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