Security forces are “firmly on the ground” to ensure Zimbabweans go about their normal business undisturbed following threats of another round of violent protests by MDC-Alliance and its affiliates, Government has said.
Speaking to The Herald yesterday, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Cain Mathema and Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said after last week’s violence that resulted in loss of life and destruction of property, Government was ready to firmly deal with people who break the law.
The ministers’ assurances follow threats by various groups involved in last week’s violence that they plan to carry out more demonstrations beginning today.
One of the organisers of last week’s three-day stayaway was quoted in some private media yesterday as saying he had gone into hiding but was planning more violent protests.
“I have gone into hiding, but we are still strategising the next move . . . He (President Mnangagwa) must attend to the economic issues and remove bond notes or else the people will continue to show their unhappiness,” Promise Mkwananzi of #Tajamuka was quoted as saying.
Last week’s three-day orgy of violence was organised by MDC-Alliance, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) along with social groups, Tajamuka and #ThisFlag movement led by Evan Mawarire.
“As the Ministry of Home Affairs, we want to reassure the public that we will not hesitate to enforce the law today, tomorrow or in the next 100 years. We want to make sure that every Zimbabwean enjoys the peace and freedom we have in the country because Zimbabwe belongs to all Zimbabweans,” Minister Mathema said.
He said Zimbabweans should not be hindered in their daily activities by malcontents seeking to cause chaos in the country.
“Every Zimbabwean has a right to enjoy the freedom that is prevailing in the country without any fear, so as Government we want to reassure Zimbabweans that the security agents will be there to ensure security of persons and property. They should feel free to carry out their activities,” Minister Mathema said.
He said Government was working to improve people’s livelihoods but that its efforts were being hampered by the effects of illegal sanctions imposed on the country by the West at the instigation of the MDC-Alliance.
“We have had challenges that are a result of the sanctions that were called for by the MDC-Alliance and Government is doing its best to improve the lives of its citizens despite these challenges,” Minister Mathema said.
Speaking on the sidelines of a Zanu-PF extraordinary provincial coordinating committee meeting held in Mutare yesterday, Minister Mutsvangwa said the law would take its course in the event of violence.
She warned those behind the unrest that law enforcement agents would take stern measures and those found on the wrong side of the law would be punished.
“It is important for people to know what is happening especially during these trying times,” she said.
“People should know that the disturbances that occurred a few days ago were not demonstrations but it was people who are pushing for regime change in the country. The Government and our security forces are on the ground and people should feel free to go to work and to school as security forces are providing everyone with safety.”
Minister Mutsvangwa said the Government was aware of the economic hardships that people were facing and urged everyone to exercise their rights within the confines of the Constitution.
“We want to inform people that those who destroyed property worth more than $800 million across the country were hooligans. That must not be allowed in this country and those who were arrested will be heavily punished,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
“Our Constitution allows us to demonstrate peacefully but that is not what we witnessed. We saw people destroying clinics, houses and attacking police at their stations. It shows that there was a third force behind it,” she said.
“Our President created democratic space but it does not mean we have to take the law into our own hands. What I would like to assure you is that our security forces are on the ground and we want to see our children back in school and people going to work. We need production for our nation to develop and that can only be achieved if people go to work,” she said.
Rowdy MDC-Alliance supporters went on a rampage last week following calls for a stayaway, destroying property and looting businesses across the country.
The mobs also burnt over 30 cars and buses and attacked police stations.
Six people also lost their lives in the violence.
Police have since arrested over 700 people countrywide for their involvement in the violence with the law enforcement agents saying the net is closing in on those involved in the vandalism that occurred last week.
Police have also established security checkpoints to search people who might be attempting to move their loot to rural areas. There were also reports that some of those who went on a looting spree were dumping goods wherever they could for fear of being caught.