Zimbabwe rallies banned as police fear massive turnout on streets

21 August 2019 - 15:24 By LENIN NDEBELE
Police officers patrol near Tredgold magistrate's court, Bulawayo, on August 19 2019. File photo.
Police officers patrol near Tredgold magistrate's court, Bulawayo, on August 19 2019. File photo.
Image: Zinyange Auntony / AFP

City-to-city rallies in Zimbabwe's major cities by the MDC Alliance have been stopped with 11th hour high court bans and prohibition orders, amid police fears that citizens from all walks of life and political affiliations would turn out in great numbers to join the marches.

After running battles between police and civilians in Harare on Friday, the protest was expected to gain momentum in Bulawayo on Monday, but the police and other security arms froze the impending demonstrations.

In a memo seen by TimesLIVE, the chief superintendent of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) in Bulawayo, Elizabeth Phiri, said the demonstrations would have breached the peace.

“The ordinary citizens in the country are experiencing hardships, so any call for demonstration might be taken advantage of by the already agitated citizens and violence might erupt.”

She was also concerned about the safety of her officers, citing the example of one Constable Maune who was stoned by rioters on January 14.

In Gweru, the country's third-largest city where the demonstrations had been slated for Tuesday, the police said they were under-capacitated to deal with an estimated 100,000 demonstrators.

“The police will not be able to provide adequate security in view of the fact that the anticipated number of demonstrators is pegged at 100,000 considering that the police human resource base has remained unchanged from the previous demonstrations held on 14-16 January 2019,” wrote chief superintendent Tsitsi Chikomo, the officer commanding Gweru urban.

Chikomo said the fact that they failed to contain rioters in January when figures were lower than those anticipated this week, was reason enough to stop them.

On Tuesday, police issued a prohibition order for the demonstration.

The MDC Alliance said in future its demonstrations will be foregrounded on “diversion, surprise and spontaneity".