Government is investigating the extent to which external parties were involved in the violent protests that rocked Beitbridge town last Friday leaving property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars either burnt or vandalised by hooligans, State Security Minister Kembo Mohadi said last night. Minister Mohadi, however, said it was too early to release details.“We are still investigating the matter and from the way the demonstrations were carried out, it points to the hand of a third party.
“The way they carried out the operations is unlike Zimbabweans. Our people are known for holding peaceful demonstrations rather than vandalising properties or burning tyres.”
The hooligans blocked roads with stones and other objects as well as burning tyres and also set on fire a Zimbabwe Revenue Authority state warehouse, destroying property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars including 35 vehicles that had been forfeited by the revenue authority.
The mob also looted shops in the town and damaged some of them and stoned private vehicles and houses. Another group also blocked traffic on the South African side of the border for six hours. These included businessmen in that country and residents from the neighbouring town of Musina.
Some of the characters under the spotlight were those seen wearing T-shirts with the Hashtag “Tajamuka”, while others had professionally printed banners denouncing the Government over the new import laws. Of late such T-shirts have become a common feature during demonstrations staged by opposition political parties.
It is also understood the South African traders living near the border with Zimbabwe have started feeling the heat over the introduction of the new regulations. At least 60 percent of them sell the restricted goods, raising speculation that they were also fuelling demonstrations in Zimbabwe. Minister Mohadi said several arrests of the proponents of the violence had been made though some of the ringleaders were still at large.
He said they were still pursuing those implicated for masterminding the chaos and would be accounted for soon. He said that the situation was still calm because of the strong visibility of security forces around the town.
“For now the situation is calm. We haven’t received any new reports of untoward behaviour. Furthermore, we are hearing that there are other people in South Africa who are mobilising to close that side of the border again,” said the minister. He said was yet to engage his counterpart in South Africa over the matter.
Sources close to investigations said yesterday that three more suspects had been arrested bringing to 74 the number of people who have been arrested in connection with the mayhem around the border town.
Industry and Trade Minister Mike Bimha said on Saturday that restrictions on selected goods under the new import regulations would not be reversed because the policy saved the country’s best interests and that it was introduced after wide consultations.
He said the Government would not deviate from engineering its economic revival agenda and would press ahead with the limited restrictions. The minister said the SI did not bar people from importing a few products for personal consumption. Some of the listed goods include food items, building material, furniture, toiletries and cooking oil among other things.
Meanwhile, it was business as usual at Roadport as buses were ferrying passengers to South Africa. Passengers and bus drivers who had just arrived from the neighbouring South Africa, confirmed that things were almost back to normal at the border.
One driver identified as Kanhongo attested that travelling to South Africa was now safe and chided social media for exaggerating events, creating panic. “I would not risk my life and that of the passengers by driving to a place I know is not safe. Some of these rumours circulating on social media are not a true representation of what is happening.”