Zimbabwe protest organisers now in hiding

Job Sikhala
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MANY leading players in the planned month-end anti-government mass protests have fled their homes as raids on their residences by suspected State agents continue.

This comes as authorities and the ruling Zanu-PF are pulling out all the stops to thwart the planned mass demonstrations which are slated for Friday next week across the country.

It also comes as Zimbabwe has just tightened its national coronavirus lockdown to combat the spread of the lethal disease in the country, which has so far killed 26 people and infected more than 2 000 others.

Some of the terrified leading players in the planned July 31 protests confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that they had fled their homes.

Among these people are expelled former Zanu-PF youth league leader Godfrey Tsenengamu, MDC Alliance deputy national chairperson Job “Wiwa” Sikhala and the president of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz), Obert Masaraure.

“We have indeed been forced to move out of our homes because they (State security agents) are looking for us.

“We are living outside the comfort of our homes because they want to intimidate and to harm us … so that they can instil fear in everyone.

“Yesterday (Wednesday), they harassed the family of our organising secretary Mike Mpofu in Warren Park.

“As a result, we are now living without our families in a free Zimbabwe. We didn’t commit any crime, we are only demanding an end to corruption,” Tsenengamu told the Daily News.

This comes after the suspected State security agents raided Tsenengamu’s two homes in Bindura and Harare – where they allegedly harassed his family after failing to locate him.

In both incidents, the police denied ever issuing orders for him to be arrested or for his residences to be raided.

Masaraure also told the Daily News that he had fled his home following numerous raids by armed men at his Harare residence and that of a close relative.

“The State has successfully pushed me out of my residence. Gun-toting State agents broke into my uncle’s home in Kuwadzana and later broke into my Waterfalls home.

“They even kidnapped my cousin and … my wife. They have haunted my family away from their homes. “I am now being forced to live like an unwelcome refugee in my own country,” Masaraure said.

“This is ridiculous given the fact that our demands as workers are justifiable and legitimate. We are simply demanding a living wage from our employer.

“They might have pushed us from our houses but we remain rooted in the struggle for labour justice.

“We are now in a war situation … We have to free ourselves from poverty and the machinations of these monsters,” Masaraure added.

On his part, Sikhala, said he was now operating away from Harare – while also expressing fear for the welfare of his family.

“They (his family) are under 24/7 surveillance. These (suspected security agents) are evil men and women who cannot withstand the truth about the sad state of affairs in the country.

“They are resorting to primitive methods of abduction, terror and assassinations. I have got every detail of their plans and I have alerted international organs and heads of State who are friendly … about their heinous plots,” Sikhala told the Daily News.

All this comes as authorities stand accused of cracking down unjustly on the organisers of the planned July 31 mass protests and other critics.

This week, law enforcement agents arrested a number of dissenting voices, while suspected State security agents raided the homes of  Sikhala, Tsenengamu, Masaraure and Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president, Peter Mutasa – among others.

The main convenor of the planned month-end protests, Jacob Ngarivhume, was arrested on Monday for allegedly inciting public violence – after he insisted that the demos would go ahead even without the approval of the police.

Yesterday, he was denied bail and sent to remand prison until August 6 – when he will appear again at the Harare Magistrates’ Court.

Political tension has been rising in the country ever since the organisers of the protests vowed to go ahead with their mass actions – with or without the green light from authorities – until the government acted on rampant public sector corruption and also holds much-needed national dialogue to rescue Zimbabwe from its myriad crises.

At the weekend, the government warned the opposition and civil society over the planned demos saying protesters would be treated like terrorists and likely end up being jailed.

Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi warned in an interview with the Daily News then that authorities would use security forces and the courts to deal with the protests.

“If you look at the Public Health Act that was used by the president to pronounce a state of public emergency … once that is declared it means certain fundamental rights will be limited in that regard.

“It’s a justifiable limitation of a right. Now you find certain individuals … pursuing their agenda of demonstrating in the middle of the pandemic.

“If you try to analyse that thinking, you then realise that the agenda is to make sure that our people die … and hence it is something that cannot be tolerated,” Ziyambi told the Daily News.

“Any lawful government worth its salt will not condone such behaviour. It’s a complete no, no … and nobody will be allowed to get in the streets to infect others.

“We believe that it’s uncalled for and that there is a hidden hand to ensure that Zimbabweans die and we will make sure all the security agents and even the courts deal with it.

“We will ensure that courts are there to deal with the violators of Covid-19 regulations, that they are prosecuted and sent to jail.

“That’s our response as government. We are very ready,” Ziyambi further told the Daily News.

Source – dailynews