HARARE – Zimbabwe has accused western envoys of fomenting unrest in the country after the main opposition party requested police clearance for a fresh wave of demonstrations.
Police last week banned marches planned by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in five cities as the party sought to protest against the deteriorating economic situation.
Authorities said they had intelligence that the demonstrations would turn violent and, on August 16, they ruthlessly dispersed people that had gathered for a march in Harare.
Home Affairs minister Cain Mathema on Wednesday said security forces were on high alert after the MDC issued notices that they would hold countrywide demonstrations between Friday and Saturday.
“The government of Zimbabwe is disturbed by the activities of some diplomatic missions in Zimbabwe, who are engaging in local politics and clearly showing open support for opposition parties in the country through various activities,” the minister said today.
“(We) are concerned by the security implications of these diplomatic missions’ interference and visits to private residences of some opposition political party leaders under the guise of diplomatic engagements.”
State controlled media last week accused the US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Brian Nichols, of visiting the home of a top MDC official to plot demonstrations against President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The US Embassy in Harare, however, dismissed the allegations as false.
Envoys from Western countries last week condemned Zimbabwe’s heavy handed response to protests and the alleged abduction of opposition activists.
The European Union, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, the UK, Australia, Canada and the US ambassadors in Zimbabwe issued a joint statement condemning the August 16 crackdown in Harare.
They called on President Mnangagwa’s administration to respect citizens’ freedom of speech and assembly, but the government said protests were not justified.
“The nation cannot afford to be having demonstrations on a daily or weekly basis; the economy suffers as attention is taken away from key activities, which as a country should be focused upon,” Mr Mathema said.
“We cannot be in elections mode indefinitely as this creates a security threat to the country,” he added.
MDC, led by Mr Nelson Chamisa, is challenging President Mnangagwa’s legitimacy, arguing that he rigged last year’s elections.
The party says it will stage protests until the President agrees to talks that will resolve Zimbabwe’s economic crisis.
Besides the opposition, Zimbabwe’s largest trade union is planning widespread protests against the government, which it accuses of running down the economy.
In January, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions organised a three-day ‘shutdown’ of the country that saw business coming to a halt following a steep increase in the price of fuel.
The protests, however, turned violent and the government deployed the army, leading to the death of at least 17 people.