Planned mass demos fall flat … streets empty as authorities thwart action, govt critics vent on Twitter

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YESTERDAY’S planned anti-government mass demonstrations failed to take off after authorities made heavy deployments of security forces around the country, the Daily News reports.

As a result, the day ended without major incidents being reported — as had been feared by political analysts — with most urban central business districts (CBDs) empty and the main organisers of the protests barely visible.
Still, police made a number of arrests, including those of some prominent MDC Alliance officials after they allegedly breached various laws.

This comes as businesses in Harare, Bulawayo and other major towns shut their doors for the day, fearing clashes between protesters and security forces.
In the end, no anarchy ensued, with frustrated government critics venting their anger on social media.

In Harare, there was an eerie silence in the CBD as thousands of people stayed at their homes — with security forces ensuring that those without permission to do so did not travel to town.

Police and soldiers also patrolled both the city centre and residential areas, especially high density suburbs.
In Bulawayo, the city’s CBD was similarly deserted, with the majority of shops and banks closed.

On their part, the organisers of the protests said the heavy response by authorities and security forces meant that they had achieved their goals, and that their message had reached the corridors of power.

Expelled former Zanu PF youth league national political commissar, Godfrey Tsenengamu, said the heavy presence by security forces had betrayed a “panicking government”.

“The heavy security deployments all over the country are a sign that the authorities got the message that people are not happy about how they are handling corruption issues, among other things, and they can’t obviously sustain this.
“The authorities got our message, panicked and reacted. We are happy that so far there has been no reported case of violence and looting,” he told the Daily News.

“Bringing national business to a standstill is no joke and should send a clear message that the sovereign position of our people is immense. Today, people power was on display.
“It could have just been any other normal day had it not been for the call to protest.

“The people’s expression through refusing to be associated with the regime is a clear statement by Zimbabweans that they can no longer dance to the whims of a deranged State,” Job Sikhala, the MDC Alliance vice national chairperson — who had also been among those calling for the protests — said.

The leader of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz), Obert Masaraure, urged people to keep piling pressure on the government.

“On this occasion of the 31st of July protest, the nation has witnessed the largest military deployments since the January 2019 national shutdown protest.

“This alone is a victory and sign that the elites are panicking and shaken. This is what happens when we start to win back our power.
“It is encouraging to see Zimbabweans across the political and generational divide speak out with alacrity and force against all the drivers of poverty in the country,” Masaraure said.

On the eve of the protests, security forces had cleared the CBDs of Harare and Bulawayo — in the process preventing tens of thousands of people from reporting for work on Thursday.

The major operation came after President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government had vowed to put down the planned demonstrations, branding their organisers as terrorists hellbent on destabilising the country.

At the same time, police said they had unearthed an alleged plot by the protest organisers to barricade the busy Harare-Masvingo highway and also burn filling stations.

The police also claimed the existence of an armed 249-member social media group that was threatening to carry out the violent activities — saying “these will be treated as terrorists”.

All this comes as Zimbabwe is suffering from the triple whammy of the country’s long-standing economic crisis, the negative effects of the global coronavirus pandemic and the severe regional drought which has left more than half of the population facing starvation.
In addition Zimbabwe is also currently under a rigid lockdown, which includes a dusk-to-dawn curfew, imposed by authorities in a bid to combat the spread of the lethal coronavirus.

The killer virus is now running amok in the country, having killed 53 people and infected over 3 000 others

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