DOZENS of Zimbabweans in SA today marched to the country’s embassy in Johannessburg, in the solidarity with protests in Zimbabwe.
The group, which converged in Joburg and went to protest at the embassy this morning and sang, danced carrying placards, denouncing the Zimbabwean ruling party.
Zimbabwean students in Gauteng province were also some of the protesters.
“Our fellow brothers are in the trenches, lest join hands in solidarity,” says one of the organisers.
“We are united people of a diverse political orientation commonly demonstrated….we are united by our cause, which is the love of our country Zimbabwe,” adds one of the protesters.
However there were no incidence of violence and the protesters were escorted by the South African police.
There was little activity in the Zimbabwean capital and most parts of the country as its citizens heeded the call for a massive stayaway Wednesday in protest against the harsh economic conditions the country was experiencing as well as a number of other challenges.
As Zimbabweans stayed at home, many also took to the streets and clashed with law enforcers, with clashes mainly taking place in
high-density suburbs of Harare and the country’s second capital, Bulawayo.
The stayaway was organised by #ThisFlag, #Tajamuka/Sijikile and Occupy Africa Unity Square activists, with the support of all opposition political parties.
Clashes took place in Budiriro and Mufakose high-density suburbs in the capital, while in Bulawayo, they were largely taking place in the city’s oldest suburb, Makokoba.
In Bulawayo, tensions were high throughout the day as angry youths barricaded most streets with big stones and burnt tyres, coupled with looting particularly at some shops in Bulawayo.
Police reinforcements had to be called in to control the youths, with the latter reportedly retreated while looting took place.
There were reports of two cars were burnt in Bulawayo, but that could not be verified.
Five youths were arrested in town for staging a mini-protest and chanting slogans that President Robert Mugabe “must go”.
In the resort town of Victoria Falls, protesters defied heavy police presence and waved placards, some inscribed “Enough is Enough”, while others denounced the government.
A few shops that opened in the morning shut down around midday around the country, while government parastatals such as Zesa Holdings, the National Railways company of Zimbabwe, did not open its administration office throughout the day.
A few banks opened for business, but had to quickly close due to uncertainty as reports of violent clashes spread during the course of the day.
A few commuter omnibus operators were on the road.
Even the ever-busy Mupedzanhamo flea market, Glen View home industry and Machipisa informal market, all in Harare – where over US$3 billion is estimated to be circulating on a daily business – was not hyper-active as usual.
Despite the brute force the security apparatus used against the protesters, some journalists from the private media were also arrested and detained for close to an hour for taking pictures of the clashes.
A journalists’ body, the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, condemned the arrests, saying: “The union notes with concern the continued acts of impunity by the Zimbabwe Republic Police and would want to urge them to desist from arresting journalists while doing their work. The continued harassment of journalists is another spectacular own-goal scored by the police as it only serves to portray Zimbabwe as a lawless country.”
The usually tempestuous Mabvuku high-density suburb in Harare was calm after the military police was deployed there on Tuesday night following violent scenes a day earlier.
Reports from Kwekwe, another city 200km south-west of the capital, said police shot at a car which was passing by which belonged to an ordinary citizen as tempers flared there.
Reports of trains being set on fire were dismissed. But two buses were said to have been stoned.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said they had deployed their lawyers throughout the country following the arrest of several citizens.
In Bulawayo, ZLHR said it was offering emergency legal services to those arrested in the country’s second largest city.
Six people were being assisted in the asbestos-mining town of Zvishavane, about 400km south of Harare, who had been arrested for
allegedly gathering illegally.
In Victoria Falls, 16 people were said to be assisted after being arrested for unlawfully demonstrating in the resort town.
Police national spokesperson senior assistant commissioner Charity Charamba dismissed as false reports that Choppies supermarkets in Chitungwiza and Bulawayo had been burnt down.
She said in Bulawayo, a man had been arrested for carrying home-made petrol bombs.
Tensions have been building in the country in the past few weeks, largely over the government’s policies which rights groups and opposition parties said was creating a meltdown in Zimbabwe. Protesters also complained of rampant corruption and social injustices. – Patience Rusere Additional reporting ANA