Despite government’s order against any mass protests, citizens of Zimbabwe marched out in large number, requesting for an electoral reform ahead of the country’s general election in 2018.
The High Court ruled on Friday morning that the planned opposition march could go ahead, a day after police warned that unauthorized demonstrations would not be tolerated.
This was after protesters insisted on embarking on their protests even if the court doesn’t rule in favour of the march.
“We are going ahead with it on the basis that it was not expressly prohibited (by the police). It was simply discouraged,” Movement for Democratic Change Secretary General Douglas Mwonzora said.
The protest march was organized by an umbrella group of 18 opposition parties, the National Electoral Reform Agenda with a strong backing from civic rights groups like #ThisFlag and Tajamuka.
Tensions run high in Harare after a protest march by MDC youths on Wednesday was broken up by riot police, triggering violent protests that saw vehicles burnt and shops looted.
Zimbabwe’s home affairs minister Ignatious Chombo, announced on Thursday that the government won’t tolerate any attempt to undermine peace in an apparent threat against a huge march by opposition parties on Friday.
“We will not tolerate any attempts by any group of persons, political parties, civic organisations or individuals whose actions will undermine the peace and quiet that Zimbabwe enjoys today,” Ignatius Chombo said on state ZBC TV’s main evening news bulletin.
But this warning was turned down as protesters tore down the road sign for Robert Mugabe Road and photographed it lying on the tarmac next to the body of a small white dog.
Skirmishes continue between the protesters and the police in the country’s capital city as helicopters hovered overhead at midday and riot police tried to force opposition supporters to disperse.
“No road through for a dead dog,” a Twitter user wrote, referring to the longtime Zimbabwe leader who, though advanced in age, shows no sign of wanting to step down even as he insists on returning to office come 2018 election.
Reports also has it that the chairperson of National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe, Sten Zvorwadza, has been arrested on allegations of inciting public violence while leaders of the opposition who called for the march are nowhere to be found.
Explaining the reason for the march, former cabinet minister Didymus Mutasa, spokesperson for the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) which groups political parties pushing for the reforms, said the march was in demand free and fair elections come 2018 electoral period.
“Zimbabwe’s last elections in 2013 were won by Mugabe in a vote the opposition said was rigged.
Public protests, which used to be relatively rare in Zimbabwe, have proliferated in recent months, focusing on the dire state of the country’s economy.The country’s economic crisis has worsened recently, leading to a chronic cash shortage and delay in payment of civil servants salaries.