Winter of Discontent: Zimbabwe gov threatens to block opposition protests

HARARE – A series of planned nationwide protests by the MDC “will not happen”, the deputy defence minister Victor Matemadanda declared on Monday.

Matemadanda, who previously declared that the army would be deployed to crush the protests, claimed the MDC planned to “loot and destroy” in the street marches organised for Harare, Bulawayo and Gweru starting on August 16.

“They’re saying they will demonstrate, but I’m telling you that they will not because I know they will not… it won’t happen,” Matemadanda told journalists at the Heroes Acre in Harare during Heroes Day commemorations.

The MDC maintains the protests will be a peaceful procession to force President Emmerson Mnangagwa to yield to demands for a national dialogue that should lead to a “national transitional authority.”

“If they’re going to be peaceful, there’s no problem, but we know they have no capacity to demonstrate peacefully. They will preach peaceful demonstrations only to be violent. We saw what they did in January as well as just after the elections. We (government) cannot allow them to loot and destroy property,” Matemadanda said.

On August 1 last year, two days after voting ended in national elections, a spontaneous youth protest broke out in Harare. The protesters demanded the prompt release of election results, but the march ended in a bloodbath after deployed soldiers who killed six people and wounded 35 others.

The army was again deployed in January after the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions called a three-day job boycott over fuel price increases of over 150 percent decreed by Mnangagwa. When youths poured out into the streets across the country, soldiers were deployed and rights groups say 18 people were killed and at least 72 others left nursing gunshot wounds.

Obey Sithole, the MDC’s youth chairman, said: “Matemadanda is not God. He has no right to stop the people’s demonstration. The supreme law of the land allows every citizen to demonstrate and petition. On August 16, the people are simply going to exercise their Constitutional right.” – ZimLive